To protect Montanans’ personal, private, and sensitive data and information from intelligence gathering by the Chinese Communist Party, Governor Greg Gianforte has banned TikTok from operating in Montana.
Gianforte also directed the state’s chief information officer and executive agency directors to prohibit the use of all social media applications tied to foreign adversaries on state equipment and for state business in Montana. This includes Telegram Messenger which was founded in Russia.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.”
TikTok was banned from all U.S. House of Representatives-managed devices in January and on February 27, the White House said that government agencies had 30 days to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems.
Canada followed soon after, stating that government-issued devices must not use TikTok, due to “unacceptable” risks to privacy and security.
On February 24, the European Commission’s Corporate Management Board decided to suspend the use of the TikTok application on its corporate devices and on personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device service, citing cybersecurity concerns. And on March 16, the U.K. government announced that it will ban TikTok on government staff devices following a security review.
Gianforte’s move is the first time we have seen a ban go beyond specific workers and include the personal devices of an entire state. Montana will not impose penalties on citizens who use TikTok but instead makes it unlawful for Google and Apple’s app stores to offer the TikTok app within the state. The ban is to take effect Jan. 1, 2024, and is expected to face legal challenges.
On March 23, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s failed to assuage security and privacy concerns when he gave testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Prior to this hearing, Sen. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Thune, ranking member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, introduced the RESTRICT Act along with a bipartisan coalition of co-sponsors. The Act would establish a risk-based process, tailored to the rapidly changing technology and threat environment, by directing the Department of Commerce to identify and mitigate foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services.