TikTok has been banned from phones and other devices used by government ministers and civil servants over concerns around data security.
Announcing the news on Thursday, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told the House of Commons it was “clear there could be a risk around how sensitive Government data is accessed and used by certain platforms”.
The app has been banned from Government devices with immediate effect.
Why has TikTok been banned from Government devices?
The move comes amid fears that data from the app could be passed to the Chinese government, something TikTok denies.
Mr Dowden said it was “a precautionary move”, adding: “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 can be stored and accessed.”
From now on, Government devices will only be able to access third-party apps from a pre-approved list, Mr Dowden also announced. “This system is already in place across many departments, now it will be the rule across Government,” he said.
Explaining the decision, Mr Dowden said: “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 and so today we’re strengthening the security of those devices.”
Where else has TikTok been banned?
The Government’s move follows in the footsteps of the announcement of similar restrictions in several other countries.
The US banned TikTok from official devices in December, and the EU Commission followed suit last month. Canada and Belgium have also taken similar action.
When questioned this week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hinted that the UK would follow, saying he was looking at “what our allies are doing”.
TikTok says the bans have been based on “misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics” and said it would be “disappointed by such a move” in the UK.
Will the UK public be banned from using TikTok?
It’s very unlikely that the UK public will be banned from using the popular app, which was the most downloaded worldwide in 2022.
This week Michelle Donelan, Science and Technology Secretary, told MPs the public could continue using the app.
“It is absolutely a personal choice,” she said. “But because we have the strongest data protection laws in the world, we are confident that the public can continue to use it.”
She previously told Politico that banning the app would be “a very, very forthright move… that would require a significant evidence base to be able to do that”.
“We constantly review these things,” she said. “National security always must come first, and if there was evidence presented to me that was contrary to that view, I would address it. But certainly there hasn’t been.”
What about in the US?
The US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to give President Joe Biden the power to ban TikTok earlier this month, though it is yet to be seen whether he will use it.
The Bill does not precisely specify how the ban would work, but gives Mr Biden authority to ban any transactions with TikTok, which in turn could prevent anyone in the US from accessing or downloading the app on their phones.
Republicans, who voted for the ban, argued that the platform is a “national security threat”, while Democrats, who opposed the bill, said the decision was rushed.
According to TikTok, the US government has warned that the app could be banned, unless its Chinese owners divest their stakes from the company.
The US first threatened to ban TikTok under former President Donald Trump back in 2020.
The only country to have banned TikTok entirely is India, which did so in 2020, citing threats to its national security and defence.
Does TikTok share data with the Chinese government?
TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance was founded in China, has maintained it does not share data with Chinese officials.
However, according to Chinese intelligence laws, firms are required to help the Communist Party when requested.
Like other social media sites, TikTok gathers huge amounts of data on its users, such as biometric data and location data.
Who in the UK Government uses TikTok?
A number of politicianshave joined the video-sharing app – which was the most downloaded app in the world last year – in an attempt to connect with younger voters.
However, many of these accounts have since fallen dormant or been removed. The TikTok account for UK Parliament was closed last August, while the Downing Street TikTok page has not been updated since Boris Johnson left office in September.
Other TikTok pages, including that belonging to the Energy Secretary Grant Shapps, have been updated more recently.