The United Kingdom will join the growing list of countries that have banned TikTok from mobile phones used by members and government officials, such as the United States, Canada, Belgium or the Netherlands.
The measure announced by Oliver Dowden, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (who holds a role equivalent to that of Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers), was motivated by concerns about possible threats to the security of government data, potentially collected by the Chinese application. It’s good digital “hygiene,” he explained.
The decision was taken following a security analysis, requested by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office, of the vulnerabilities to which Government data were exposed on devices with social networks installed.
“Given the potentially sensitive nature of the information stored on Government devices, the state policy on managing third-party applications will be reinforced and the preventive ban on TikTok on Government devices is being applied”, reads a statement released by the authorities. British.
When it is installed, TikTok asks users to authorize the app to access the data stored on the device, which are then collected and stored by the company — in this case, the ByteDance, Chinese tech giant that owns TikTok. Such information may include, for example, telephone contacts or geolocation data.
“Restricting the use of TikTok on Government devices is a prudent and proportionate step, following the advice of our cybersecurity experts”, reinforced this Thursday Oliver Dowden.
In the face of accusations that it would be assisting Chinese espionage, TikTok has repeatedly denied sharing its users’ data with the Beijing authorities. The company, which considers its product an entertainment service and not a social network, has reiterated that it has independent management from the Chinese regime, says it is the victim of a geopolitical conflict that surpasses it and complains of excessive scrutiny when compared to the one to which other digital platforms are subject.
At the end of February, and referring to the law passed by the United States Congress last December that prohibits TikTok on Government devices, the company’s spokeswoman in the USA, Brooke Oberwetter, stated that the legislation was changed “without any weighting” and regretted that, “unfortunately”, this approach has served as a “model for other Governments”. “These bans are little more than political theater,” she said.
After the United States, the European Commission had also banned TikTok for its employees, claiming the need for “protection” of the institution.
North Americans are TikTok’s biggest audience, but worldwide, it’s estimated that app has more than 1.5 billion users. In the UK alone, there are more than 23 million monthly active users of that platform.