US mulls banning TikTok on govt devices

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Last month, a former Google engineer revealed that the web browser used within China’s TikTok app can track every keystroke made by its users…reports Asian Lite News

A US lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill to prohibit the Chinese video sharing app TikTok from accessing thier citizens’ user data from within China and block the installation of the application on government devices.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson from South Dakota, also intends to direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to initiate an investigation to determine if TikTok has engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

“Today, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) introduced the Block the Tok Act, a bill that would prohibit TikTok from accessing U.S. citizens’ user data from within China and block the installation of TikTok on government devices,” US Representative Johnson said in a statement.

The bill also looks to prohibit the installation and use of TikTok at military installations and national security agencies (CIA, NSA, FBI, etc.). It also wishes to prohibit the installation and use of TikTok on federal government devices.

Earlier this year, reports indicated the Chinese parent company of TikTok was freely accessing sensitive user data such as passwords, keystrokes, browser history, and voice and facial recognition

“According to TikTok’s own employees, ‘everything is seen in China,'” said Johnson. “It might seem trivial to go after an app known for viral dance videos, but TikTok is a national security concern. TikTok has more than one billion users, and China is using Americans’ information to advance its communist agenda. It’s no secret China’s goal is to replace the U.S. as the world’s superpower – Americans shouldn’t help China advance its agenda. Block the Tok keeps China’s hands off your personal information.”

According to Johnson, TikTok circumvented privacy safeguards since 2020 and paid nearly USD 100 million in fines for improper data collection. Currently, several government agencies have adviced employees against downloading the Chinese app on government devices.

The Block the Tok Act would put safeguards in place to ensure better user privacy, pursue transparency, and protect our national security. This act comes as several countries have expressed apprehensions about the Chinese app. Some have even banned the application citing security risks.

Last month, a former Google engineer revealed that the web browser used within China’s TikTok app can track every keystroke made by its users.

A report by The New York Times said that collecting information on what people type on their phones while visiting outside websites, which can reveal credit card numbers and passwords, is often a feature of malware and other hacking tools.

While major technology companies might use such trackers as they test new software, it is not common for them to release a major commercial app with the feature, whether or not it is enabled, NTY quoted researchers as saying.

“Based on Krause’s findings, the way TikTok’s custom in-app browser monitors keystrokes is problematic, as the user might enter their sensitive data such as login credentials on external websites,” said Jane Manchun Wong, an independent software engineer and security researcher who studies apps for new features.

However, TikTok in the statement said that Krause’s report was “incorrect and misleading” and that the feature was used for “debugging, troubleshooting and performance monitoring.”

“Contrary to the report’s claims, we do not collect keystroke or text inputs through this code,” TikTok said. (ANI)

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