Government bans TikTok on official devices over China security fears
The government has banned the TikTok app on official devices, it has confirmed today.
The Chinese-owned social media video app has been at the centre of security and data protection concerns in recent weeks.
It follows moves by the European Commission (EC) and the United States to take action over the app’s use on secure devices.
The EC has banned the TikTok app from being used on official devices, while the US is hinting at a full-scale ban.
Cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden announced the UK’s government’s decision on TikTok in the House of Commons today.
He told MPs: “It’s clear there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms… social media apps collect and store huge amounts of user data, including contacts, user content and geolocation data.”
Dowden said, going forward, government devices would only be able to use third party apps from a pre-approved list, and the use of TikTok would be banned on government devices with immediate effect.
He added: “This is a precautionary move. We know that there is already limited use of TikTok across Government but it is also good cyber hygiene… it is both prudent and proportionate to restrict the use of certain apps – particularly when it comes to apps where a large amount of data can be stored and accessed.”
The ban will not extend to personal devices for government employees, ministers or the general public, Dowden said, while “limited” exemptions would apply on a case-by-case basis.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “It is the same pattern over and over again, a government behind the curve with sticking plaster solutions forced to lurch into a U-turn at the last minute.
“We need a strong and clear-eyed consistent approach.”
Rayner said the government “has a duty to uphold the highest standards of security”.
She added: “This announcement today is nothing but a temporary fix – a sticking plaster while gaping holes still remain in our national security. We must fix this problem – is the minister committed to doing this?”
Security minister Tom Tugendhat told Sky News this week that he had asked the National Cyber Security Committee (NCSC) to look into the TikTok app – and did not rule out a full ban.
A group of senior Conservative MPs previously warned Tiktok was “as much a threat to Britain” as banned telecoms firm Huawei.
And foreign affairs select committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns told City A.M:. “Our reliance on technology creates vulnerability and data is clearly open to abuse.
“We need to ask ourselves the question: are we comfortable entrusting our data to a company that functions as an indirect arm of the Chinese Communist Party?”
The ByteDance-owned app recently launched a new data security initiative – Project Clover. It says it will see European data stored in Ireland and Norway. Globally, data is stored in the US and Singapore.
TikTok said it was “disappointed” with the decision to ban the video-sharing app from official devices.
“We believe these bans have been based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics, in which TikTok, and our millions of users in the UK, play no part,” a spokesperson said.
“We remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns but should be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.”