On Wednesday, Maryland banned its agencies from using TikTok and other Chinese and Russian platforms following reports alleging that China’s state-backed hackers stole millions of Covid relief funds in the US.
“TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices – including when, where, and how they conduct internet activity – and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” Mr Abbott said in a letter sent to Lt Gov Dan Patrick, Texas Speaker Dade Phelan and state agency leaders.
“Effective immediately, I have ordered every state agency in Texas to ban TikTok on any state-issued devices,” the Republican governor noted.
TikTok has over 85 million users in the US and China-based employees of the video-sharing service can have access to this data, he said.
Mr Abott raised concerns that the company could share its US data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) upon request as mandated by China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law.
“The threat posed by the CCP through TikTok is serious and must be stopped,” the Republican governor tweeted, adding that he is calling for legislation to make the state’s ban permanent.
He urged state leaders to immediately ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices including cell phones, laptops, tablets and desktops computers, or on any device that is connected to the internet.
The latest move by Texas follows Maryland’s decision to prohibit the use of Chinese and Russian products and platforms including TikTok, the messaging app WeChat and Russia’s Kaspersky cybersecurity software.
The state’s governor Larry Hogan said in a statement these services “present an unacceptable level of cybersecurity risk” to the state, adding that they may be involved in cyber-espionage and surveillance of government entities.
“This action represents a critical step in protecting Maryland State systems from the cybersecurity threats caused by foreign organisations,” Maryland’s chief information security officer Chip Stewart said.
Other US states, including South Carolina, Dakota and Nebraska have also either banned or requested to block TikTok on government-issued devices.
“In fact, the use of TikTok on federal-government devices is already prohibited by agencies like the US Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security,” Mr Abbott said.