Citing a “specific risk”, the Chinese-developed video-sharing app TikTok has been banned from UK government devices “with immediate effect”.
The UK banned TikTok on “government corporate devices” on Thursday, it announced in a Parliamentary statement. While government spokesman Oliver Dowden said the ban did not extend to the general public or the private mobile phones of government ministers, he emphasised that individuals should think hard before downloading some social media apps.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 24, 2023
Noting that social media apps “collect and store huge amounts of user data, including contacts, user content, and geolocation data” and saying there was a “specific risk” to government devices, Dowden said from now on only apps from an approved list could be installed on government phones and TikTok wasn’t going to be one of them.
The government is “going to ban the use of TikTok on government devices. We will do so with immediate effect… Overall this approach aligns with action taken by allies including the United States, Canada, and the EU”, Dowden continued, saying “our security must come first”.
Nevertheless, there would be exemptions to the ban, he said, meaning TikTok could still be downloaded onto some government devices “where it is required for operational reasons”, presumably for posting government-sponsored content onto the platform in a bid to reach young people. In these cases, the installation of the TikTok app would be reviewed by security before going ahead.
Several government departments still have TikTok accounts.
As Dowden noted, the ban follows several other Western powers have already banned the app for government users over security concerns. Accusing the government of having taken too long to make the move, Britain’s left-wing opposition Labour said the action was “behind the curve”.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 6, 2023
Dowden said in Parliament Thursday:
…it is clear there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed by certain platforms. As many colleagues will know, social media apps collect and store huge amounts of user data, including contacts, user content, and geolocation data. On government devices, that data can be sensitive. So today we are strengthening the security of those devices in two key respects.
First, we are moving to a system where government devices will only be able to access third-party apps on a pre-approved list. This system is already in place across many departments, now it will be the rule across government.
Second, we are also going to ban the use of TikTok on government devices. We will do so with immediate effect… this is a precautionary move, we know there is already limited use of TokTok across government, but it is also good cyber-hygiene.
Given the particular risk around government devices which may contain sensitive information, it is both prudent and proportionate to restrict the use of certain apps, particularly when it comes to certain apps where a large amount of data can be stored and accessed.
This ban applies to government corporate devices within ministerial and non-ministerial departments, but it will not extend to personal devices for government employees or ministers, or the general public. This is because this is a proportionate move based on a specific risk on government devices.
However as is always the case, we do advise individuals to practice caution online and to consider each social media platform’s data policies before downloading and using them.
Of course, it is the case that ministers receive regular security briefings and advice on protecting data on their personal devices and on mitigating cyber threats.
We will also be putting in place specific, very limited exemptions for the use of TikTok on government devices where it is required for operational reasons. Those exemptions will only be granted by security teams on a case-by-case basis with ministerial clearance as appropriate.
Overall this approach aligns with action taken by allies including the United States, Canada, and the EU.
Our Security must always come first, and today we are strengthening that security in a prudent and proportionate way and I commend this statement to the house.
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 27, 2023