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Lancaster County bans TikTok use on county devices

The county is the first in the state to publicly announce that policy, but it follows other states and the federal government in blocking the app over security concerns.

  • Sam Dunklau
FILE PHOTO: This Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, shows the icon for TikTok in New York.

 AP Photo

FILE PHOTO: This Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, shows the icon for TikTok in New York.

A midstate county is banning the use of the popular social media app TikTok on its county-owned devices.

Lancaster County leaders announced Monday that TikTok is off limits to anyone using a county device because they believe it poses a “significant risk to cyber security.” Lancaster commissioners said the county’s IT department implemented that policy after determining the app poses a “cyber security threat.” 

“TikTok, alongside other data harvesting software, poses a significant risk to the cyber security of the County of Lancaster by capturing data on a user’s internet activity and sensitive information,” they said in a press release.

TikTok has increasingly drawn government scrutiny in other states and at the federal level over concerns that its Chinese parent company could be sharing user data with the government in Beijing. In December, Congress and President Joe Biden tucked a ban on TikTok use into the annual spending bill.

Ray D’Agostino, one of Lancaster’s county commissioners, said the app is not installed on any county devices and there have not been any security threats to the county’s infrastructure. Nonetheless, he explained, county leaders made the move proactively.

 “We continually ask them [the county IT department] what we should be looking at, and what they can be doing to increase our cyber security, and this was another step in that direction,” he said.

“Even though we’re a public agency, there are sensitive documents and information we hold on individuals…and [our] government infrastructure could also be found through cyber attacks. All that, we want to protect.”

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania said it is “not aware” of a TikTok ban in any other county. Lancaster joins the state Treasurer’s office in banning the app from official devices. GOP Treasurer Stacey Garrity announced that move in December. 

TikTok itself has repeatedly denied sharing any data with the Chinese government. Its parent company, Bytedance, has been in years-long negotiations over its business with the federal Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States.

“State legislatures are pressing ahead with bans of TikTok based on nothing more than the hypothetical concerns they’ve heard on the news,” spokesperson Jamal Brown told the Associated Press.Late last year, ByteDance admitted a few employees improperly accessed the data of U.S. users, including that of two journalists, in an attempt to figure out whether employees were leaking company information to American media outlets.  

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