Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden has announced that TikTok has been banned from UK government mobile phones due to security concerns surrounding the Chinese-owned video app.
In a statement to parliament, Dowden said there were “potentially” risks in the way the app used government data and information.
He said that while TikTok’s use was “limited”, banning it was good online “hygiene” – and brought the UK in line with the US, Canada and the EU.
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Labor said Mr Dowden’s delay in introducing the ban was “closing the stable doors after the horses had escaped”.
Video-sharing apps have been under increasing scrutiny Security and Data Privacyfearing it could be used to promote pro-Beijing views or collect user data — something Tik Tok Strongly deny.
European Commission More than half of U.S. states and Congress have enacted bans amid concerns over potential cyberattacks.
Mr Dowden stressed the government was not advising people not to use TikTok in their personal capacity.
He told MPs: “The ban applies to government company equipment within ministerial and non-ministerial departments, but does not extend to personal equipment of government employees or ministers or members of the public.
“That’s because, as I’ve outlined, it’s a proportionate move based on risks specific to government equipment.”
The Cabinet Office said the move was taken because TikTok users were required to hand over data including contacts, user content and geolocation data.
Mr Dowden said the ban came into effect “with immediate effect” on Thursday.
Some government equipment will have a “limited exemption” on a “case by case” basis if the app is needed for work purposes, he said.
TikTok: Ban ‘driven by geopolitics’
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, said it was “disappointed” by the decision.
A spokesman said: “We believe these bans are based on fundamental misunderstandings and are driven by broader geopolitics in which TikTok and our millions of users in the UK have no role to play.
“We remain committed to working with the government to resolve any issues, but should be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.
“We have embarked on a comprehensive plan to further safeguard our European user data, which includes storing UK user data in our European data centers and strengthening data access controls, including independent oversight of our methods by third parties.”
The ban could also anger Beijing, which has accused the United States of spreading disinformation and cracking down on TikTok amid reports that the White House has called on its Chinese owners to sell their stake.
China will see the move as another blow as relations sour
China’s response to a string of countries that have banned TikTok on government devices has been predictably angry and suspicious, tinged with some sarcasm.
A foreign ministry spokesman had previously said the US decision showed insecurity and was an “abuse of state power”.
In a famous poem, she added: “How uncertain is America, the world’s number one superpower, about itself that it should be so afraid of a young man’s favorite app?”
But despite attempts to clarify, Beijing is sure to see this as another blow in an atmosphere of rapidly deteriorating relations with the West.
It comes at a time when distrust is deeper than ever.
Underpinning this mistrust from China’s perspective is a fundamental belief that Western powers are pursuing a policy of “containment” against it – in other words, they consciously seek to prevent the country’s development and development because they oppose In theory, China is in the ascendant.
Restrictions on one of its most important exports will definitely be considered part of the policy.
Of course, the irony is that China has completely banned the use of many Western social media apps – apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Google have not been available in China for over a decade.
Motives vary, but they all add to a worrying picture of growing polarization.
Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner backed the move but said “the government is late again”.
She told the House of Commons: “Last August, Parliament closed its TikTok account, as the Minister just said, the US banned TikTok from official devices in December, and the European Commission followed suit almost a month ago.
“But on February 28, the Secretary of State for Science and Innovation said the app was a matter of personal choice. She said we had no evidence and a ban would be very straightforward.
“So what’s changed? Two weeks later, two ministers, two completely different policies, the same pattern over and over again, a government that was behind the curve forced to make a sudden U-turn at the last minute.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had previously hinted at banning TikTok, saying Britain would “see what our allies are doing.”
Earlier this week, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat told Sky News he had asked the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) to investigate the app because it was critical to keeping the UK’s “free and safe diplomatic process” “absolutely necessary”.
TikTok has long said it does not share data with China, but Chinese intelligence legislation requires companies to help at the request of the Communist Party.
Critics fear the policy could expose Western data to Beijing.
UK parliament closes own account Last year, after members of Congress complained about the company’s China.