US govt now bans TikTok from contractors' work gear

BYODALAINGTI (as long as it's not got TikTok installed)

The US federal government's ban on TikTok has been extended to include devices used by its many contractors - even those that are privately owned. The bottom line: if some electronics are used for government work, it better not have any ByteDance bits on it. 

The interim rule was jointly issued by NASA, the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration, which handles contracting for US federal agencies. The change amends the Federal Acquisition Regulation to prohibit TikTok, any successor application, or any software produced by TikTok's Beijing-based parent ByteDance from being present on contractor devices. 

"This prohibition applies to devices regardless of whether the device is owned by the government, the contractor, or the contractor's employees. A personally-owned cell phone that is not used in the performance of the contract is not subject to the prohibition," the trio said in their update notice published in the Federal Register. 

The rule would apply to all contracts, even those below the "simplified acquisition threshold" of $250,000, purchases of commercial and off-the-shelf equipment, and commercial services so get ready to wipe those company phones, cloud services providers and MSPs that do business with Uncle Sam. 

The rule went into effect the day it was published in the Federal Register - June 2 - meaning any government contracts issued will now have to include language regarding the ban. Contracts that have already been cut, but have yet to be completed, are being given a month to file amendments adding the TikTok ban. 

TikTok, a cornered clock

The contracting clampdown is the latest salvo in a global war on one of the world's most popular social media platforms over its purported links to the Chinese government. The US already passed a bill into law banning TikTok from the devices of federal government staff used in the course of their duty. 

TikTok boasts having about 1.4 billion addicts, and there is a concern that someone – eg, Beijing's authoritarian regime – could exploit or snoop on that vast user base.

Several other governments, including the UK and EU, have enacted similar bans on TikTok and other ByteDance software on devices that could host sensitive data, which they rather understandably don't want living alongside software able to be accessed by staff in China. 

Only a few nations, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India among them, have tried to pass bans on public use of TikTok. US officials have been trying to pass their own version of a nation-wide TikTok ban, though both were introduced shortly before the end of the 117th congress and died after not being acted upon before the end of the session.

That didn't stop the US state of Montana from banning TikTok in the state, with a $10,000 (£8,000) fine for each violation, and an additional $10,000 "each day thereafter that the violation continues," along with threats to enforce said law, which goes into effect on January 1 next year. 

TikTok has sued to stop enactment of the Montana law, arguing that it constitutes an infringement of the first amendment rights of TikTok users, and is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, which restricts the rights of US states to interfere with interstate commerce.

ByteDance and TikTok have previously and repeatedly denied claims that the Chinese government has control of the mobile software. ®

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