UK Joins US, Canada, Others in Banning TikTok From Government Devices

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The UK government has announced plans to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from all government devices.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, confirmed the plans earlier today after Cabinet Office Ministers ordered a security review of the app.

“The security of sensitive government information must come first, so today, we are banning this app on government devices. The use of other data-extracting apps will be kept under review,” Dowden explained.

Upon installation, the TikTok app requires users to give permission to access data stored on the device. According to the UK government, this data, which includes contacts, user content and geolocation coordinates, is collected and held by the company.

Dowden said the government and its international partners are concerned about how this data may be used.

“Restricting the use of TikTok on government devices is a prudent and proportionate step following advice from our cybersecurity experts,” the minister added.

However, Dowden clarified the ban does not extend to personal devices for government employees, ministers or the general public. 

Further, exceptions for use of TikTok on government devices are currently being developed for specific work purposes, such as enforcement roles or online harms investigations.

“We’ll likely continue to see governments crack down on TikTok use by government officials, employees, and the military,” commented Chris Hauk, consumer privacy advocate at Pixel Privacy.

“The US is putting similar restrictions in place, while Canada, Belgium and the European Commission already bar the app from being installed on government phones.”

Read more on TikTok here: Unpacking Recent Government TikTok Bans

However, Hauk said he would like to see the ban on social apps expanded to include Facebook, Twitter and others. 

“While there isn’t currently any concern over foreign governments having access to data from these services, users have a tendency to ‘over share,’ meaning government info could be inadvertently shared on these networks,” Hauk added.

Chris Vaughan, Technical Account Team vice president at Tanium, explained that security concerns extend beyond information sharing. 

“Institutions are realising that use of the platform could open up staff and citizens to a number of problems including campaigns designed to further the political objectives of adversaries and deepen divisions in western societies,” Vaughan argued.

The UK TikTok ban comes days after the company announced Project Cover and the creation of two new European data centers.

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