Britain bans TikTok on government devices over security concerns

TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny due to fears that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON – Britain on Thursday announced a ban on TikTok on government devices, a move that follows other Western countries that have barred the Chinese-owned video app over security concerns.

“The security of sensitive government information must come first. So, today we are banning this app on government devices. The use of other data-extracting apps will be kept under review,” Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said in a statement.

TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny due to fears that user data from the app owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre has been reviewing whether TikTok should be barred from government phones, while the United States, Canada, Belgium and the European Commission have already banned the app.

“Restricting the use of TikTok on government devices is a prudent and proportionate step following advice from our cyber security experts,” Mr Dowden said.

TikTok said it was disappointed with the decision and had already begun taking steps to further protect European user data.

“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 United Kingdom, play no part,” a TikTok spokesman 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,” he added.

Mr Dowden told Parliament government devices would now only be able to access third-party apps from a pre-approved list.

The TikTok ban does not the include personal devices of government employees or ministers, and there would be limited exemptions where TikTok is required on government devices for work purposes, he added.

ByteDance has long insisted that it does not keep data in China or share it with Beijing.

US officials have said that, if TikTok parts ways with ByteDance, it would avoid a wider national ban.

On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry called on Washington to stop “unreasonably suppressing” TikTok, which claims more than a billion global users.

“The US has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens US national security,” spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters. REUTERS, AFP

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