TikTok Banned From Government Phones In The UK
(CTN News) – Ministers and civil servants will no longer be able to access the Chinese-owned TikTok app on their phones, bringing the UK in line with the US and EU.
Earlier, TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, had said Washington told them to sell the app or face a possible ban in the country. The UK’s decision marks a sharp U-turn from the earlier position.
Oliver Dowden, Cabinet Office minister, announced the decision in the Commons on Thursday. The ban was effective immediately.
TikTok was reviewed by government cybersecurity experts in November, Dowden said, and will cover work phones of civil servants and ministers, but not personal phones. He added that this is proportionate to a specific risk with government devices.
Users must give TikTok permission to access data stored on their devices, which is collected and stored by the company. The company can access a variety of data, including contacts, user content, and geolocation data. The ban is justified, Dowden said.
TikTok is used by two cabinet ministers. Several celebrities and influencers, including Michelle Donelan, the science and technology secretary, and Grant Shapps, the energy security and net zero secretary, have accounts on the app.
As a result of this decision, the UK joins the US and the European Commission in banning TikTok, and it illustrates how fast western trust in China and TikTok has declined.
However, the UK has reversed its previously relaxed stance. Over a fortnight ago, Donelan said the UK won’t copy other governments, but it should be up to individual politicians. In my opinion, personal choice is important as a Conservative.”
TikTok’s spokesperson said the company was disappointed. TikTok, and millions of users in the UK, have no role in these bans because they are based on fundamental misconceptions. We’re committed to working with the government.”
Including storing UK user data in European datacenters and including third-party independent oversight of its approach, the company says it has begun working on a “comprehensive plan” to protect European user data. In order for its global staff to do certain “important functions,” TikTok sends UK personal data abroad, including to China.
Labour’s Angela Rayner said the government was “behind the curve with sticking plaster solutions” with the previous bans abroad, and asked why central government phones and tablets were the only ones at risk.
Deputy leader of the party also asked whether ministers had been subjected to a “root and branch” review of their use of mobile phones, referring to the feared hack of Liz Truss’s phone while she was foreign secretary as well as Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages, which were reported to the Daily Telegraph.
Did ministers discuss the use of private messaging services such as WhatsApp and email during this process?” Rayner asked MPs. In response, Dowden said ministers received “extensive advice” when they took office and that the government was updating its guidance on private messaging.
Iain Duncan Smith, a Conservative MP who has repeatedly expressed concerns about China’s security, suggested that a ban should also cover ministers’ and officials’ personal phones. The point I’d make is you can’t stop there.”
Dowden said the government needs to find a balance. According to him, ministers were made aware that only government devices should be used for substantive government business.
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