Gov. Noem Takes Action as The DOJ and Now the FBI Warns of National Security Breaches Due to Chinese Owned Telecom Companies
PIERRE, S.D.- Gov. Kristi Noem has signed Executive Order 2022-10, taking decisive action as tensions continue to mount with China. The E.O bans state government agencies, employees, and contractors from accessing the social media platform TikTok from state issued devices.
Noem's order corresponds to recent warnings issued by the DOJ and FBI, as various national security breaches have been unearthed. In addition, tensions mount as China's President Xi Jinping has taken aggressive actions, and absolute control of both the government and the military. According to ABC news, Jinping replaced most of the top leadership with his generals last month during the 19th Party Congress.
Upon seizing control, Jinping outlined a new path forward that refocuses the Country's prior emphasis on economic security, to now making China a world power by 2035. According to the Chinese Communist Party Leader, this will be accomplished and backed by creating the top ranked military in the world.
Jinping's actions, and the use of Chinese owned telecom companies to spy on Americans, have many within the U.S State Department warning of threats to homeland and national security.
During the Nov. 15, 2022 Congressional Oversight hearing on Homeland Security, FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of Congress that "under Chinese law, Chinese companies are required to essentially, and I’m going to shorthand here, basically do whatever the Chinese government wants them to in terms of sharing information or serving as a tool of the Chinese government. And so that’s plenty of reason by itself to be extremely concerned.”
TikTok has come under recent fire, and is now facing multiple lawsuits in European countries for allegedly oversharing their user’s data.
TikTok is owned by parent company ByteDance, a Beijing-based company that has links to the Chinese government . Shou Zi Chew, who simultaneously served as the CFO of ByteDance until November 2021, began serving as CEO for TikTok in April 2021, solidifying concerns related to the influence of the Chinese parent company over the app's data management.
FBI Director Wray is one of several within the intelligence community to warn Congress, stating that they do not believe the app has the ability to protect user data.
During a press conference on Oct. 24, 2022 DOJ Director Merrick Garland announced charges in three separate cases accusing more than a dozen defendants, most of them Chinese officials, of participating in schemes to repatriate critics of the Chinese government, obtain secret information about a U.S. investigation into Chinese telecom firm Hauwei and recruit spies to act as agents of the Chinese regime in the U.S.
"This case exposes the interconnection between PRC officers and Chinese companies," Deputy Attorney Lisa Monaco said during the press briefing.
Noem has said that the E.O is needed immediately in order to prevent the Chinese Communist Party's ability to gather data from state issued devices. The app is able to track user location, videos watched and commented on, as well as the data gathered off the device itself such as; personally identifiable information, contact lists, addresses, photos, health information, and even banking information.
“The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform,” Noem said. “Because of our serious duty to protect the private data of South Dakota citizens, we must take this action immediately. I hope other states will follow South Dakota’s lead, and Congress should take broader action, as well,” Noem concluded.
EO 2022-10, signed Nov. 29, 2022, takes immediate effect and only applies to employees and agencies of the State of South Dakota, including persons and entities who contract with the state, commissions, and authorities or agents thereof. The order prohibits downloading or using the TikTok application or visiting the website on state-owned or state-leased electronic devices capable of internet connectivity.