LONDON — The UK on Thursday announced plans to ban the use of the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on government company devices.
Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said a study by UK cybersecurity experts found that “there could be risks to how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms”. One thing is clear,” he said.
Dowden added that the app collects a huge amount of data about its users, including contacts and location information. On government devices, “data can be sensitive,” he said.
“Today, we are banning this app on government devices because the security of government sensitive information must come first. Use of other data extraction apps will continue to be reviewed,” the minister said. press statement.
Dowden said the TikTok ban will begin immediately and that the action is a “precautionary measure.”
He confirmed that the ban does not extend to the personal devices of civil servants. “This is a commensurate move based on the specific risks associated with government devices.”
Exemptions to the use of TikTok on government devices have been implemented where necessary for business purposes, but “security mitigation measures have been taken on a case-by-case basis and with the Minister’s permission where appropriate. Only allowed by security teams,” the government said.
The minister also said government devices can only access third-party apps on a pre-approved list.
A TikTok spokesperson said the company was disappointed by the UK government’s decision.
“We believe these bans are based on a fundamental misunderstanding and are driven by wider geopolitics that TikTok and its millions of users in the UK are not involved in. We are working with the government. We are committed to addressing concerns through our support, but should be judged factually and treated on a par with our competitors,” a spokesperson said in an email.
“We have begun implementing a comprehensive plan to further protect European user data, including storing UK user data in European data centers and strengthening data access controls. This includes third-party independent oversight of our approach.”
The UK move follows similar rules in the US and European Union. In late February, the White House gave government agencies 30 days to ensure TikTok wasn’t installed on federal devices. The EU’s enforcement agency, the European Commission, has also banned employees from installing TikTok on corporate and personal devices.
Lawmakers in Washington have repeatedly expressed concern about US users’ data from TikTok being sent to China and in the hands of the Beijing government.
TikTok has emphasized several times the efforts it is making to protect user data in the United States. Last year, the company announced “Project Texas” to “fully protect user data and U.S. national security interests.”
TikTok said it is working with US company Oracle to ease Washington’s concerns by storing all US data in the US company’s cloud by default.
Pressure on TikTok is increasing globally. The Commission on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has directed his ByteDance to sell its stake in TikTok. Any ban would keep his TikTok out of the huge US market.