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State of Michigan reviewing TikTok policy

A person holding a cellphone
A person holding a cellphone

Michigan government cybersecurity experts are reviewing the social media platform TikTok and others for potential threats.

As first reported by MLive, the confirmation that TikTok is under evaluation comes a week after Republicans in Michigan’s congressional delegation urged the governor to ban the app from state-owned devices.

Their letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also asked her to look into banning it from employees’ personal devices and to delete her account, BigGretchWhitmer.

The popular app is owned by the Chinese company, ByteDance.

The Republicans expressed concerns the Chinese Communist Party could compel ByteDance to give up access to user data.

“This is not a partisan issue, but one of national security, and indeed the security and privacy of all Michiganders. We implore you to protect Michigan employees and our educational institutions from the threat of CCP influence, data collection, and control,” the letter to Whitmer said.

Whitmer’s communications team deferred comment on the matter to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which handles cybersecurity for the state.

In a written statement, DTMB spokesperson Caleb Buhs said there’s “a robust cybersecurity program” in place to fend off attacks.

“Our team of cybersecurity professionals are continually reviewing new online platforms, like TikTok, and evaluating potential threats to the network to ensure that the information entrusted with us is protected and safe. The State of Michigan has more than 600 social media accounts on 11 social platforms that reach more than 7 million followers daily. Social media is an important tool for communication if used responsibly,” Buhs said.

Several states and the federal government have already taken steps to ban TikTok from government devices.

While some federal departments already have that as a standing practice, a spending bill signed Thursday makes it uniform.

When faced with past criticism, TikTok has assured its commitment to user privacy and data protection for its U.S. consumers.

But news reports have called some of those privacy claims into question.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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