U.K Bans TikTok on Government Devices, Joining U.S., EU, and Canada

The U.K. today banned the popular video-centric social media app TikTok from government-issued devices, following in the footsteps of fellow Five Eyes members Canada and the U.S. — reports The Guardian.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden announced the decision in the Commons on Thursday, saying the ban would be implemented “with immediate effect.”

Dowden said during the announcement that the ban comes after the U.K. government’s cybersecurity experts began investigating TikTok in November 2022. He noted that the move will cover work phones issued by the government to ministers and civil servants, but won’t extend to their personal phones.

“This is a proportionate move based on a specific risk with government devices,” he added. According to Dowden, the U.K. government has concerns over the troves of user data TikTok collects, from contacts and user content to geolocation data.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the company was disappointed by the U.K.’s decision. “We believe these bans have been based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics, in which TikTok, and our millions of users in the UK, play no part. We remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns.”

TikTok went on to say that it had been working on “a comprehensive plan” to protect European user data. This plan would see U.K. user data stored in TikTok’s European datacentres, with third-party independent oversight of the company’s approach. TikTok has previously admitted that U.K. users’ personal data is stored and often accessed for “important functions” by its staff abroad, including in China.

The U.K. is far from the first country to ban TikTok on government devices amid deteriorating relations between the West and the Chinese government, and rising data security and privacy concerns against the Chinese app.

In the past month, the U.S. and the European Commission have announced similar bans on TikTok. Canada soon followed suit, with provincial and municipal governments across the country now announcing bans of their own.

The U.K. ban comes after U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday threatened a complete ban on TikTok in the country unless the app’s Chinese owners sell their stakes. TikTok today started rolling out a new feature that lets users refresh their ‘For You’ feed if their recommendations no longer feel relevant.

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