The use of TikTok on mobile phones issued to government ministers and civil servants in the UK has been banned, reports the BBC.
Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told MPs that the app would be banned with immediate effect following a review by the National Cyber Security Centre, calling it a “precautionary” but “prudent” move.
This makes the UK the latest territory to block TikTok on official devices, with the USA imposing a ban in December the EU blocking employees from using the app on their phones last month.
Despite the ban, employees who need TikTok for work purposes are able to continue to use the app. For example, the Ministry of Defense has an official TikTok account, which it uses “to promote the work of the Armed Forces and to communicate our support to Ukraine”.
Additionally, government employees are still able to use TikTok on their personal phones.
A controversial decision
The crux of the matter is that TikTok is required under Chinese law to hand over data, including sensitive information such as geolocation data and contacts, to the Chinese Communist Party if requested. While TikTok has stated that it doesn’t share information with government officials, this law could force their hand, which is something governments worldwide are taking issue with.
TikTok called the decision disappointing, and stated that the decision was “based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics, in which TikTok and our millions of users in the UK, play no part.”
BBC technology editor Zoe Kleinman states, however, that videos criticising China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim population have been taken down, while several Western journalists were found to have been tracked by employees of ByteDance, TikTok’s owners, who the company claim to have fired. While there’s seemingly no indication that any government officials have been tracked, this does however lend some credence to their concerns.
For its part, China has lobbied accusations that the USA is spreading disinformation regarding TikTok, amid reports that the American government will ban the app in the country unless its Chinese owners sell their stakes in the app.
We listed ByteDance as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.