Warning Puts a Damper on Lawmakers' Use of TikTok

Memo from chamber's Chief Administrative Office warns against app due to privacy, security concerns
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2022 9:25 AM CDT
House Lawmakers, Staffers Warned Against Using TikTok
The TikTok app logo is seen in Tokyo on Sept. 28, 2020.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

(Newser) – Even members of the US House of Representatives and their staff like to catch the latest viral dance video on TikTok, but a new warning from the chamber's Chief Administrative Office may have them rethinking using the popular social-media app. "We do not recommend the download or use of this application due to these security and privacy concerns," read a CAO memo issued Tuesday entitled "TikTok Cyber Advisory," per Politico. The memo points out that the platform is Chinese-owned and deemed by the CAO to be "a high risk to users due to its lack of transparency in how it protects customer data, its requirement of excessive permissions, and the potential security risks involved with its use."

Among the personal data that TikTok is able to get its hands on, per the CAO: user contacts, calendars, photos, and device location, all of which is stored on servers in China and may be "potentially mined for commercial and private purposes." The memo notes that the Pentagon has already issued a similar warning on the app to service members, with some military branches outright banning it on government-issued devices. The warning could put a damper, though, on lawmakers' efforts to reach a younger demographic. "I use it because we try to communicate with constituents through every medium available," Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss told the Hill earlier this month. "If I thought people were going to look at smoke signals and decipher that, we would have a smoke signal program."

The outlet notes that content posted by lawmakers includes everything from "serious to silly," though the warning now has some rethinking their TikTok habits. "We will pause on usage until we feel safe and get further clarity," a spokesperson for Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman says. A Dem staffer adds that while they understand the draw of the app, "it's probably in the best interest of national security to stay far away." Unsurprisingly, TikTok is taking issue with the warning. "The allegations in the House CAO's advisory about TikTok range from misleading to wrong," a spokesperson says in a statement, adding that the company has asked for a meeting "to discuss the multiple inaccuracies in the advisory." (Read more TikTok stories.)

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