Chinese app TikTok to be banned from UK government phones

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Chinese-owned social media app TikTok will be banned from phones and other devices used by government ministers and officials for security reasons.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden will make a statement to MPs later.

There has been no official comment – but Security Minister Tom Tugendhat had asked the National Cyber ​​Security Center to review the issue.

TikTok has strongly denied claims that it is handing over users’ data to the Chinese government.

A number of government departments have TikTok accounts – and the Ministry of Defense (MoD) uploaded a video of a Challenger 2 tank, a type being delivered to Ukraine, to its account this morning.

The ministry told the BBC it would continue to use TikTok among a “wide range of digital channels… to promote the work of the armed forces and to communicate our support for Ukraine”.

“Robust processes are in place to ensure our devices are secure, including managing risks from third-party applications. Our most sensitive information is kept on a separate system,” added a spokesperson.

British government ministers have come under pressure from senior MPs to follow the US and European Commission in banning the app.

The US banned TikTok from official entities in December, and the Commission followed suit last month. Canada, Belgium and India have taken similar measures.

China has accused the United States of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok amid reports that the White House wants its Chinese owners to sell their shares in the company.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said Britain would “look at what our allies are doing”.


Larry the Downing Street cat starred in the latest No. 10 TikTok video of Summer 2021

TikTok said the ban was based on “misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics”, adding that it would be “disappointed by such a move” in the UK.

It has said it does not share data with Chinese officials, but Chinese intelligence laws require companies to help the Communist Party when asked.

Critics fear the policy could reveal data on devices used by political leaders and officials to Beijing.

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See: Praise Atkins on… The sneaky TikTok bans

The British Parliament closed its TikTok account last August. The Downing Street TikTok page has not been updated since Boris Johnson left office last September, but others, including the MoD and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps, have updated their pages recently.

With 3.5 billion downloads worldwide, it’s fair to say that the growth of TikTok has been explosive.

It is very tempting. It’s incredibly easy to record short videos, add music and fun filters all within the app.

People joke about how time-consuming TikTok can be even if you don’t want to post anything, and that’s because its algorithm is super sharp at showing exactly the videos that appeal to you and keeping you there, watching commercials in between.

The reason for this is of course that the platform gets to know a lot about you.

It records how long you watch a particular video, which ones you comment on or prefer. If you have an account, it also knows your age, location and device, and even monitors your typing rhythms. Its cookies track your activity elsewhere on the web.

It is true that other major social networks do the same.

But they are US-based, and in the case of TikTok, we have occasionally seen what appears to be Beijing’s hand on the shoulder of Chinese parent company ByteDance.

A handful of Western journalists were found to have been tracked by ByteDance employees. ByteDance says they were fired.

An American TikToker shared a video criticizing the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims and it was removed. TikTok said this was a mistake.

This has raised the alarm of governments and security specialists – despite the firm’s consistent denials.

The Chinese state demands loyalty from all companies based in the country, and no one really knows to what extent ByteDance may be pressured to comply with demands for data.

On Wednesday, Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan, who also has a TikTok account, told MPs that the public could continue to use the app.

She said: “It’s absolutely a personal choice. But because we have the strongest data protection legislation in the world, we’re confident the public can continue to use it.”

TikTok hosts short-form videos submitted by its users. In 2022, it became the world’s most downloaded app.

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