ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s chief tax collector Wednesday applauded an order by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan banning some social media companies and apps from state-owned devices and said his agency began taking similar steps more than a decade ago.
On Tuesday, Hogan issued an order banning the popular social media app TikTok from state equipment. The order extends to a number of apps connected to Russia and China.
Franchot backed the order during Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting and laid blame for billions of dollars in fraud at the feet of bad actors connected to the two countries.
“We lost between $2 and $3 billion in unemployment funds, largely from the federal government, but we’re responsible for doling them out. These are funds that are supposed to go to people that are really hurting. Instead they went out of state, out of country,” said Franchot. “Unfortunately a lot of them went to states like China and Russia, who do not have our best interests at heart.”
A day earlier, Hogan issued an emergency cybersecurity order banning the apps citing concerns about espionage, collection of personal data and government surveillance .
Hogan’s announcement comes just as governors in South Carolina and South Dakota issued similar restrictions. Nebraska’s governor banned the app in 2020. The app is also prohibited on devices owned by the U.S. military.
“There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives,” Hogan said in a statement, adding: “To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us.”
Hogan’s order is not the first time the state has made a move to ban or limit technology owned by companies controlled by the Chinese government.
More than a decade ago, the Office of the Comptroller phased out the use of Lenovo computers, citing concerns about software and components that could be used to collect information.
“In the comptroller’s office we’ve gotten rid of almost all computers and hard(ware) devices that are manufactured by companies in China that are controlled by the government,” Franchot said. “We’re just not confident as to what is inside the computers.”
A spokeswoman for the office said the elimination of those computers started about 16 years ago “when the state department and other intelligence agencies banned this company’s products for issues related to China. We followed the feds to stop purchasing these products as well for security reasons.”