The popular social media app TikTok has been banned from mobile phones and other devices issued to UK government ministers and civil servants due to security concerns after a review by the National Cyber Security Centre.
As of Thursday, government officials are no longer able to download the app onto work devices. “We will do so with immediate effect. This is a precautionary move. We know there is already limited use of TikTok across government, but it is also good cyber hygiene,” announced Oliver Dowden in the UK Parliament.
The UK government’s decision follows similar bans by the US, Canada, and the European Union. The concern surrounding TikTok is due to a 2017 law that obliges organizations in China to assist the government in intelligence and national security if requested. TikTok denies sharing user data with the Chinese government, as the law does not apply to them as its parent company ByteDance is incorporated overseas. However, the fear is that the process of data access by Chinese authorities is far less transparent and could constitute data espionage.
“We are disappointed with the UK decision to stop government staff from using TikTok on their work phones,” Theo Bertram, a TikTok representative stated on Twitter.”It appears to us to be driven by wider geopolitics, in which TikTok and our users play no part.”
The UK government is not advising the general public to stop using TikTok, only government officials who might have more sensitive information on their phone. The the growing controversy over TikTok is a sign of deepening tensions between the West and China.
Meanwhile, the US is considering further restrictions, with officials from the Committee on Foreign Investment telling TikTok’s Chinese owners to either sell their shares or face a total ban. The fear in the US is not just about data collection but also the potential for the Chinese Communist Party to shape the content users see.
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