TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the world, sucking users into its irresistible, infinitely looping feed of videos personally curated to their interests. However, Federal employees may now need to wait until they get home to watch the app’s latest dance craze or viral pasta recipe.

A $1.7 trillion government spending bill unveiled by Congress today includes a proposal to ban TikTok on most government devices. The ban would apply to executive agencies – with exceptions for law enforcement and national security activities, as well as security researchers.

Under the bill, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would have 60 days to “develop standards and guidelines for executive agencies requiring the removal” of TikTok from government devices.

The proposal to ban the app, introduced as a separate bill by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., passed the Senate unanimously last week. Sen. Hawley has argued that TikTok, which is owned by the China-based tech giant ByteDance, poses a large security risk to the United States.

If the spending bill is approved, the Federal government will join several Republican-led state governors that have already banned TikTok from government devices in recent weeks, also citing security concerns.

Concerns over using TikTok on government devices have been bipartisan, although most Federal legislation looking to ban the social media platform has come from Republican legislators.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation last week for an all-out ban of TikTok from operating in the United States, arguing that the app is being used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill. Notably, Rep. Gallagher referred to TikTok as “digital fentanyl” that is “addicting Americans, collecting troves of their data, and censoring their news.”

However, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said more targeted legislation is needed to prevent the flow of U.S. citizen data to China and the Chinese government. While the senator does not oppose proposed TikTok bans, he doesn’t believe a nationwide ban will solve data privacy issues.

“I just want people to understand, if you banned TikTok, that doesn’t mean people’s personal data is safe from China,” Sen. Wyden said last week. “These sleazy data brokers go and they’ll get people’s data, they leech it up, and then off it goes.”

To that end, Sen. Wyden said he has worked with Sen. Rubio on legislation that would block the sale of personal data to China and elsewhere.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.