UK bans Chinese-owned TikTok from government devices amid mounting security concerns

Block follows similar moves in Europe and the US

Andrew Griffin
Friday 17 March 2023 09:07 GMT
TikTok officially banned from UK government phones, announces Oliver Dowden

Chinese-owned social media app TikTok has been banned from British government phones and tablets in a “precautionary” security move.

The block comes after similar moves by the United States and the European Commission, as relations between Western nations and Beijing continue to deteriorate.

The Uk government fears sensitive data held on official phones could be accessed by the Chinese government.

“We’re moving to a system where government devices will only be able to access third-party apps that are on a pre-approved list,” Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons. “We are also going to ban the use of TikTok on government devices. We will do so with immediate effect.”

Mr Dowden said the move was “good cyber hygiene” – but there was no advice for consumers to follow suit.

TikTok, owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, said it was “disappointed” with the decision and said bans were based on “fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics”.

China echoed that, with its embassy in London saying the decision “interferes with the normal operations of relevant companies in the UK and will ultimately only harm the UK’s own interests”.

“Given the particular risk around government devices, which may contain sensitive information, it is both prudent and proportionate to restrict the use of certain apps – particularly when it comes to apps where a large amount of data can be stored and accessed,” Mr Dowden said.

The ban does not cover personal devices – including those used by government ministers or MPs – and there will be exemptions where the app is required on official devices for operational reasons.

Some government ministers, including Grant Shapps and technology secretary Michelle Donelan, run TikTok accounts of their own. Mr Shapps, who has 14,400 followers on the platform, said the government device ban was “sensible” but that he would continue his account on other devices.

However, former minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith called for a wider ban on the use of the app by ministers and MPs. Labour MP Andrew Western agreed, saying the changes “should go further”.

Nadine Dorries, a frequent poster on TikTok while serving as Boris Johnson’s culture secretary, tweeted: “My phone is personal. Today I removed TikTok and I think all MPs should do likewise.”

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