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TikTok banned from UK government devices over China data fears

TikTok banned
Image credit: XanderSt via Shutterstock

Social media app TikTok has been banned from UK government devices as a data security measure due to concerns over the app’s connections to the Chinese state.

The popular short-form video-sharing app, which has more than 3.5 billion downloads globally, is owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance.

While the company has denied allegations that the Chinese government has access to TikTok user data, UK ministers have banned the video app as a “precautionary measure”, according to Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden.

Dowden said that “the security of sensitive government information must come first”. The ban follows a review of the app from the National Cyber Security Centre.

The decision will only be applicable to devices issued by the government to ministers and civil servants, which means officials are free to continue using TikTok on personal devices. Dowden said this was because there was a “specific risk with government devices”.

“However, as is always the case, we do advise individuals to practise caution online and to consider each social media platform’s data policies before downloading and using them,” he added.

The UK ban follows a similar decision made in the US to remove TikTok from government-issued devices. The Biden administration has since demanded ByteDance sell TikTok outside of Chinese ownership to avoid being banned completely in America.

A spokesperson for TikTok told UKTN the company is “disappointed with this decision” and that it believes the bans have been “based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics”.

The spokesperson added that the company would “remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns but should be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors” and that it has “begun implementing a comprehensive plan to further protect our European user data”.

The plan includes “storing UK user data in our European data centres” and “tightening data access controls, including third-party independent oversight of our approach”.