The UK is set to announce a ban on TikTok on government smartphones, joining other Western countries in barring the Chinese-owned video app over security concerns.
The Cabinet Office said the move follows a risk assessment of third-party apps on government devices. It says the ban, which will apply to work phones of ministers and civil servants, is a “prudent and proportionate step” that doesn’t extend to personal devices.
Why TikTok is being banned
UK Set to Announce Ban on TikTok on Government Smartphones
A ban on the social media app TikTok is to be announced this week, bringing the UK in line with EU and US moves. The Cabinet Office has announced that it will not allow the app on government devices, which are used by ministers and civil servants.
The move has been criticized by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner. It “feels like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted,” she said.
However, security experts say that it is a precautionary measure that brings our country’s policy in line with other jurisdictions and is aimed at protecting government devices from a security threat.
The security concerns are rooted in the app’s ability to collect and analyze user data. This includes personal information such as name, location, and phone numbers. It also captures biometrics, which can be used to track a person’s behavior online.
TikTok’s data collection
TikTok, a popular video-sharing app, collects a huge amount of data from its users, including their contacts, messages, photos, videos, audio, and web browsing history. It does this to help improve the experience of its users, but it also has the potential to harm them if data is used against them or stolen.
According to reports, UK government officials are set to announce a ban on the TikTok app from all government smartphones. This follows reviews by the National Cyber Security Centre.
The decision comes after a number of other countries, including the US, Canada, and the European Union (EU), banned the video-sharing app from official devices due to security concerns.
TikTok owner ByteDance has been accused of compromising user privacy by sharing their data with the Chinese government. It has responded by saying the bans are based on fundamental misconceptions and are driven by wider geopolitics.
TikTok’s privacy policies
In the past, some security experts have warned that TikTok’s privacy policies might give the Chinese government a way to compel the company to hand over user data. That’s because Chinese law allows the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to compel companies that store information on their servers to hand over that data without a warrant.
According to former TikTok employees, ByteDance shares this data with its employees based in China. This data includes specific user IDs, which can be used to identify specific people when they’re searching for or interacting with certain types of content. These employees, who worked on the app in the U.S., said that it was common for them to reach out to a team in China to get a list of Americans who were interested in the platform.
Over the past few months, American political leaders have begun banning TikTok on government devices, citing concerns that user data collected by the app’s Chinese owner will be used to spy on Americans and to influence social policy.
In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, Congress passed a law banning TikTok from federal gadgets in December. Since then, more than half of state governments have banned the video-sharing app from their own gadgets.
Those same states also have enacted similar bans on their government contractors’ devices.
The Trump administration has taken similar steps, including adding dozens of China-owned companies and entities to a federal blacklist that limits US exports.
While the US has attempted to address these issues, it’s hard to say how successful these measures will be. Privacy advocates, for example, have warned that a blanket ban on apps based on their foreign ownership will only hurt US businesses.