The British government has banned TikTok on all government devices as part of a wider security review. The move comes as a precautionary measure to safeguard sensitive government information, with Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden emphasizing the importance of prioritizing security. Dowden announced that the ban would take effect immediately, adding that the use of other data-extracting apps would also be monitored closely.
In a statement, Dowden highlighted the government’s commitment to ensuring the safety of sensitive data, stating that “the security of sensitive government information must come first.” He also stated that the use of TikTok on government devices had been limited to date but that the ban was an important step towards maintaining good cyber hygiene.
During his announcement in Parliament, Dowden emphasized that the ban was a precautionary measure and that the government would continue to review the use of other third-party apps on government devices. The announcement aligns the UK with other major jurisdictions that have also implemented similar bans on TikTok in recent months.
The ban on TikTok aims to safeguard sensitive data on government devices and prevent the harvesting of location data. It does not apply to personal devices belonging to government officials or members of the public. The UK government has also implemented a policy that permits the use of third-party apps on official devices only if they are on an approved list.
Exceptions to the TikTok ban will be made in cases where the app is required for work-related purposes, such as for law enforcement or online harm prevention projects. These exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with the implementation of necessary security measures.
The government has emphasized the importance of being aware of an app’s data policies. TikTok requires users to grant permission for the app to access specific information stored on their device, such as geolocation data and contacts. Officials have expressed concern about the potential misuse of this data.
Leaders from various countries and territories have raised concerns over China’s potential access to their citizens’ and officials’ data through TikTok. ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, is based in Beijing. Many governments have recently banned the use of TikTok on government-owned devices, including the US, dozens of states, Canada, and the European Commission.
On Wednesday, it was widely reported and later confirmed by TikTok that the US government has informed ByteDance to sell the app or face a complete ban in the country.
Multiple pieces of legislation are currently in progress that aims to grant President Joe Biden or the Commerce Secretary the authority to ban TikTok. This development follows former President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to force ByteDance to sell TikTok almost three years ago. Additionally, it comes a week before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before a House committee.