UK bans TikTok from Government devices over security fears and worries about app's ties with Beijing

16 March 2023, 10:11 | Updated: 16 March 2023, 13:32

The UK is set to ban TikTok from government phones
The UK is set to ban TikTok from government phones. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

TikTok has been banned from Government employees' devices after security concerns about the Chinese app.

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Cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden confirmed the move to Parliament on Thursday.

There have been fears the popular video sharing app could hand over data to the Chinese government or promote propaganda, which has been denied by the company behind it.

"The security of sensitive government information must come first, so today we are banning this app on government devices. The use of other data-extracting apps will be kept under review," Mr Dowden said.

"Restricting the use of TikTok on Government devices is a prudent and proportionate step following advice from our cyber security experts."

The Government said it was a precautionary ban and described its use across employees as "limited".

Some devices will be exempt if allowed for "operational" reasons, Mr Dowden told MPs.

But energy security secretary Grant Shapps will keep using it on his personal phone.

A spokeswoman for him said: "Grant has never used TikTok on Government devices and believes security measures - like not sharing location permission - are sensible.

"However, he is concerned that representatives of the people who deliberately choose not to engage with the public on the platforms that they actually use are unlikely to continue to represent these voters for long."

TikTok's denials have not stopped the US, the EU Commission, Canada, Belgium and now the UK from introducing bans for workers' phones.

Parliament has also shut down its account.

And the White House has now told ByteDance to sell its shares or risk being banned in the US – something Donald Trump previously threatened to do.

Read more: Pupils could face disciplinary action if they stage ‘TikTok-inspired’ protests

Oliver Dowden is set to confirm the ban on Thursday
Oliver Dowden is set to confirm the ban on Thursday. Picture: Alamy

The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States recommended ByteDance divest from TikTok.

A spokesperson for the app said: "If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn't solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.

"The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems."

TikTok has said of being banned from phones: "Similar decisions elsewhere have been based on misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics, but we remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns."

In the UK, the safety of TikTok has been reviewed by the National Cyber Security Centre.