New Jersey bans TikTok other devices from computers, phones in anti-Chinese tech order

Asian child using phone, TikTok

TRENTON, NJ – The state of New Jersey has become the latest to ban TikTok from computers and cellphones used by government employees. New Jersey announced the ban of the popular Chinese-based video sharing platform along with more than a dozen other apps the state has deemed ‘high-risk’.

The order comes from the desk of Governor Phil Murphy and calls for the removal and ban of apps like TikTok, WeChat, AliPay, Alibaba, QQ Wallet and a host of Chinese-based apps.

Murphy’s order targets mostly Chinese-owned businesses operating in the U.S., a move some are already calling xenophobic. Murphy calls blocking Chinese-based apps, a cybersecurity measure.

“Bolstering cybersecurity is critical to protecting the overall safety and welfare of our State,” said Governor Murphy. “The proactive and preventative measures that we are implementing today will ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and safety of information assets managed by New Jersey State government. This decisive action will ensure the cybersecurity of the State is unified against actors who may seek to divide us.”

Not everyone in government is required, there is a loophole.

Agencies may have public health, safety, welfare, or other compelling State business and public interest reasons for using the prohibited software technologies or services. In such cases, the Agencies are required to submit an exception request with the NJCCIC. If agencies provide a compelling justification for their communications or outreach work, they may receive approval to use these software technologies or services on a device not connected to a secure State network. Approved exceptions and use cases will include risk mitigation instructions.

“New Jersey’s policy to remove certain software from State owned or managed devices, inclusive of TikTok, deemed as high risk of potential data loss or privacy issues is part of our statewide cyber risk management program,” said New Jersey Chief Technology Officer Christopher Rein. “This follows in line with a number of actions taken by government and private sector enterprises, and is consistent with some of the risk reduction steps taken at the Federal and State levels. The New Jersey Office of Information Technology will work diligently alongside NJCCIC to maintain cybersecurity across state government.”

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Prohibited Software Vendors, Products, and Services as of January 9, 2023:

  1. Huawei Technologies
  2. Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co., Ltd., also doing business as Dahua
  3. Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., Ltd., also doing business as Hikvision
  4. Tencent Holdings LTD, including but not limited to:
  5. WeChat
  6. QQ
  7. QQ Wallet
  8. Alibaba products, including but not limited to:
  9. AliPay
  10. Alibaba.com Mobile Apps
  11. Hytera
  12. ZTE Corporation
  13. ByteDance Ltd., including but not limited to TikTok
  14. Kaspersky Lab

Murphy singled out TikTok as being the prime target of the anti-Chinese tech order.

“TikTok is a popular short-form video sharing and social networking app that it is owned by the Chinese technology company, ByteDance,” Murphy said in a statement today, “There have been national security concerns about user data the Chinese government might require ByteDance to provide. Analysis of various versions of TikTok have been found to collect the keystrokes of users, make screen captures every few seconds, access data from the phone’s clipboard, and collect the unique Media Access Control (MAC) address of the device, among other user information. That data may include passwords and other sensitive information – not only into the TikTok app, but also the other apps used on a device, e.g., email, text messages, eHealth apps, etc. Due to these issues, the US Department of Defense, various federal agencies, state governments, corporations, and governments around the world have banned TikTok from being installed on their devices.”