The United Kingdom has become the latest major jurisdiction to prohibit TikTok from being used on government devices. Following a security review ordered by ministers, the measure went into effect immediately. The restriction is part of a broader set of restrictions on third-party apps on government devices.
“The security of sensitive government information must come first, so today we are banning this app on government devices,” the government’s second highest-ranking minister, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden, said in a statement. “The use of other data-extracting apps will be monitored.”
In Parliament, Dowden stated that this is a precautionary measure. “We are aware that there is already limited use of TikTok across government, but it is also good cyber hygiene,” he explained.
The ban is intended to protect sensitive data on government devices and to prevent activities such as location data harvesting. The rule does not apply to personal devices owned by government employees, ministers, or the general public. Furthermore, the UK government will only permit its employees to use a third-party app on an official device if it is on an approved list.
The TikTok ban will be lifted in cases where the app is required for work, such as for law enforcement or those working on projects related to online harms. These exceptions will be granted on an individual basis, and security measures will be required.
People should be aware of each app’s data policies, according to the government. According to the company, TikTok requires users to grant the app permission to access certain information stored on a phone or tablet, such as geolocation data and contacts. Officials are concerned about how this information will be used.
Many leaders in many countries and territories have expressed concern that China may gain access to the data of their residents or officials via TikTok. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing. In recent months, many legislatures, including the United States, dozens of states, Canada, and the European Commission, have banned TikTok from government-owned devices.
On Wednesday, it was widely reported (and confirmed by TikTok) that the US government had told ByteDance that the app must be sold or face a complete ban in the country. Several bills are being considered that would give President Joe Biden or the Commerce Secretary the authority to ban TikTok. The reported development comes nearly three years after former President Donald Trump tried to force ByteDance to sell TikTok and just a week before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies before a House committee.