UK government bans the use of TikTok on employee devices
Barely a week after the US government placed a 30-day ultimatum for government employees to delete TikTok on their work devices, the UK has followed suit. Speaking to parliament, Oliver Dowden, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Secretary of State who oversees Cabinet Office policy, said that ministers and officials are required to delete the video-sharing app with immediate effect.
The ban does not cover the personal devices of ministers, government employees, or the general public. Dowden failed to mention what led to the U-turn by the government even after the secretary of state for science, innovation and technology Michelle Donelan had earlier said that government use of TikTok was a matter of personal preference.
“This is a precautionary move. We know that there is already limited use of TikTok 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 apps where a large amount of data is stored and accessed,” Dowden said.
TikTok has been in an uphill battle with governments around the world with a lot of them worried that the app’s Chinese ownership makes it a cyber threat. Government officials fear that the app could be used to gather intel on behalf of the Chinese government. Something that TikTok has vehemently denied.
In the US there have been talks about divesting the company to remove control from Chinese-based ByteDance.
On its side, TikTok through its CEO, Shou Zi Chew has suggested partnering with Oracle so that TikTok US data is stored locally and protected by US data privacy laws.
TikTok is currently under investigation in the US over a Journalist spying incident that was reported late last year. Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week.
Canada, the European Commission and Taiwan are some of the other government organizations that have banned the use of TikTok on work devices.