On Thursday, the United Kingdom announced plans to ban the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on government and corporate devices.
According to Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden, after a review by Britain’s cyber security professionals, it was “clear that some platforms may pose risks in accessing and using sensitive government data.”
Dowden added that apps collect vast user data, including contacts and location. He said that “data can be sensitive” on government devices.
“Security of sensitive government data must come first, so we are banning this app from government devices today. The minister said in a press release that the use of other data-extracting apps would be reviewed.
TikTok’s ban was effective immediately, according to Dowden, who emphasized that it was a precautionary measure.
He also confirmed that the ban would not extend to the personal devices of government employees. “It’s a proportional action based on a certain risk with the government device.”
Exemptions for using TikTok on government devices are being implemented where required for work purposes but “will only be granted on a case-by-case basis by the security team, with appropriate ministerial clearance and security mitigation in place”. said
The minister also said government devices could only access third-party apps on a pre-approved list.
There was disappointment in TikTok over the UK government’s decision, according to a company spokesperson.
There is no link between TikTok and the U.K.’s millions of users, as these bans reflect fundamental misunderstandings and result from broader geopolitical forces. “We will work together with the government to address any concerns, but the judge should be based on the information and treated equally with our competitors.”, a spokesperson said in an e-mail response.
As part of our comprehensive plan to further protect European user data, we have migrated U.K. user data to our European data centres and tightened data access controls, including independent third-party oversight.
Britain’s action follows the same rules as the U.S. and the E.U. In a memo sent in February to government agencies, the White House urged them not to install TikTok on federal devices for 30 days. A ban has been imposed on TikTok installation on corporate and personal devices by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU.
Washington lawmakers have repeatedly expressed concern that Beijing could end up in government hands and send American user data from TikTok to China.
TikTok has, on several occasions, highlighted its work to protect U.S. user data. Last year, the company unveiled “Project Texas” to “fully secure user data and U.S. national security interests.”
TikTok is working with U.S. firm Oracle to store all U.S. data in its cloud, which it says is by default to allay Washington’s fears.
Global pressure on TikTok is mounting. Faced with a U.S. ban on the app, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has asked it to sell TikTok shares. Any ban would shut TikTok out of the vast U.S. market.