Science Secretary ‘confident’ data laws mean public can continue to use TikTok

15 March 2023, 13:24

Michelle Donelan
Michelle Donelan. Picture: PA

TikTok has been banned on federal government devices in the US.

The Science and Technology Secretary has said the public can continue to use TikTok because of the strength of UK data protection laws.

Michelle Donelan made the comments while reiterating that the Government is undertaking a review of security on its own devices.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hinted that Britain could follow the US and the EU in banning the Chinese-owned social media app from government phones and devices.

Speaking during a session of Science, Innovation and Technology questions in the Commons, Labour’s Lucy Powell pushed the Government to clarify its position.

The shadow culture minister said: “Three weeks ago, the Secretary of State said that TikTok on Government devices is a personal choice. At the weekend, it was reported that a review of TikTok is to be carried out. And this week the Prime Minster said he is considering a ban.

“So, can she tell the House today, is it a personal choice or does TikTok pose a security risk on officials’ devices?”

Ms Donelan replied: “Ensuring the security of UK data is a priority and our experts continue to monitor the threats posed to data.

“The Government’s security group led by the Cabinet Office are reviewing the evidence base to take action for Government devices.

“What I actually said was, in terms of the general public, it is absolutely a personal choice. But because we have the strongest data protection laws in the world, we are confident that the public can continue to use it. That is very different to what (Ms Powell) stated.”

Asked about a ban on TikTok on Tuesday, security minister Tom Tugendhat said he was awaiting a report from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) before taking a decision.

Mr Tugendhat was asked if he would order a complete ban on the app, like those ordered by India and former US president Donald Trump.

He told Times Radio: “I don’t have it and the Prime Minister asked me to defend the leading democracy taskforce a little while ago, and as part of that we’re looking at the various threats to parliamentarians, but also to journalists.

“Looking at the various different apps people have on their phones and the implications for them is a hugely important question and I’ve asked the National Cyber Security Centre to look into this.”

Pressed whether this means there could be a full ban on the app, he said: “It will be addressed with the challenges we face, with the threats we face. I’m not going to give you an answer until I know what the risks are.”

Mr Trump’s ban, which faced a series of legal challenges and never came into force, was revoked by his successor in the White House, Joe Biden.

Parliament’s TikTok account was shut down last year after MPs raised concerns about the firm’s links to China.

By Press Association

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