According to official electronic correspondence, staff must remove and never reinstall the application from any device issued by Congress. "The Office of Cybersecurity has deemed the TikTok mobile application to be a high risk to users due to a number of security risks," the email from the Committee on House Administration stated as the 117th Congress concluded its business.
The Chinese firm-owned app had also been banned on government devices as part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill.
Several lawmakers wanted to go even further and ban the app entirely in the United States. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mike Gallagher introduced the bill titled "Anti-social CCP Act," which indicated that the short-form video hosting platform is communist China's spy technology on Americans.
A spokesperson for the social media platform said the move is "a politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States."
However, TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, recently admitted that four of its employees used the app to spy on journalists at the Financial Times and BuzzFeed News.
In an internal company email seen by the New York Times, the company said it asked four employees to find the source of leaked internal communications this past summer. The employees decided to access the IP addresses and other data of several U.S. citizens via their TikTok accounts, but ultimately failed to find what they had been looking for.
"The public trust that we have spent huge efforts building is going to be significantly undermined by the misconduct of a few individuals," ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo said in an internal email.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said he was disappointed in the employees and that the company takes data security "incredibly seriously." TikTok initially denied the allegations, insisting that it did not collect "precise GPS location information from U.S. users," and only used IP addresses to help show "relevant content and ads."
Critics and observers are saying that tech giants take control of their users' lives by hijacking personal data. It was comprehensively discussed in the book titled "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism," authored by social psychologist and Harvard University professor Shoshana Zuboff. (Related: Shoshana Zuboff: Big Tech companies hijack personal data to control people's lives.)
In a review of the book, renowned alternative medicine proponent Dr. Joseph Mercola said the information – also called "behavioral surplus data streams" – is gathered without the knowledge of netizens. The technocrats are using them to surveil users' buying behaviors and preferences that would give them opportunities to generate profits for themselves.
"We have become the product. We are the real revenue stream in this digital economy," Mercola pointed out.
In a video documentary, Zuboff said: "The term 'surveillance capitalism' is not an arbitrary term. Why surveillance? Because it must be operations that are engineered as undetectable, indecipherable, cloaked in rhetoric that aims to misdirect, obfuscate and downright bamboozle all of us, all the time."
In the video, the author explained how surveillance capitalism came about. According to her, a startup company named Google struggled to survive after the 2000 dot.com crisis that burst the internet bubble.
But the search engine got a boost when its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin accidentally discovered that "residual data" left behind by users during their internet searches could be traded and sold. By compiling this residual data, they could predict the behavior of internet users and guarantee advertisers a more targeted audience.
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Watch the video below that talks about TikTok being caught spying on American journalists.
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