Employees in the IRS’s Criminal Investigation unit were able to access TikTok on their computers and mobile phones months after OMB guidance banned the social media app from government devices, a new Treasury watchdog report found.
OMB’s “No TikTok on Government Devices” guidance was issued last February, but the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s review revealed that the tax agency’s CI division hadn’t cut off workers’ access to the app as of August, nor had it sought an exemption from the rule from the Treasury Department.
Criminal Investigation officials told TIGTA that they did not plan to pursue a law enforcement exception for the 900 employees who could access TikTok via agency computers because the app could only be used “via a third-party software, which does not directly connect IRS devices to TikTok.”
With regard to the 2,800 mobile devices within CI that are in violation of the OMB guidance, IRS management recommended that the unit move its phones over to device management software that the rest of the agency uses. That software, the report noted, does have the ability to block access to TikTok.
The IRS said it disagreed with TIGTA’s recommendation that the CI chief should coordinate with the agency’s chief information officer to ensure that TikTok access is cut off, saying that it “instead is establishing an internal process to adjudicate limited exceptions” and requests will be considered by IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel “or his designee.”
Aside from the access issues highlighted in the CI division, TIGTA found that the IRS was largely compliant with the TikTok ban, and in the cases where it wasn’t, corrective action was taken.
For example, TikTok was accessible on 23 mobile devices that were used by the agency’s Communications and Liaison group to monitor social media, but when informed of the oversight by TIGTA, the agency moved the devices over to the existing software, in the process cutting off access to the app.
The IRS also agreed to update its “Bring Your Own Device” policy — which allows agency employees to use personal devices for business purposes — to align with OMB guidance by October 2024. Prior to the TIGTA report, the agency’s guidance did not connect the TikTok ban to participants in that program.