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Is TikTok a threat to state government security? These NC lawmakers are concerned.

Image of TikTok app open on a cell phone.
Kiichiro Sato
Image of TikTok app open on a cell phone.

Two state lawmakers are asking North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to consider prohibiting state employees from downloading TikTok on government-issued devices.

This is part of a larger movement based on political concerns that the Chinese-owned company could pose a threat to national security by sharing user data with China's government.

Congress passed a ban on TikTok on federal employees' work devices last month as a provision in the larger spending bill to keep federal agencies funded. Some states have followed suit with similar proposals to ban TikTok downloads on state employees’ work phones, computers and tablets.

Republican state representatives Jon Hardister and Jason Saine recently co-wrote a letter asking Cooper for a similar ban for state employees.

“If Congress is doing it for staffers on Capitol Hill, then I think we should do the same thing in North Carolina,” Hardister said.

Duke University professor Kenneth Rogerson studies technology policy and media in the Sanford School of Public Policy. Rogerson says many data privacy researchers applaud the recent scrutiny of TikTok, but he thinks it's too narrowly focused on the company's connection to China.

“We need to be asking these same kinds of questions and wondering the same kinds of things about all companies that gather our data,” Rogerson said.

Rep. Hardister says he'd like the General Assembly to consult with cybersecurity and national security experts about threats to the state government and consider long-term legislation.

"I think the legislature is going to have to look at this issue and come up with a game plan,” Hardister said. “But what the governor could do in the short term, is go ahead and issue an executive order, which could be temporary.”

The governor's Senior Deputy Communications Director Mary Scott Winstead said the state is "reviewing state government use of TikTok and considering potential additional safety measures."

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Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email: lschlemmer@wunc.org