In line with actions taken by the US, Canada, Belgium, and the European Commission, the UK government has announced a ban on the use of TikTok on government devices.
There has been growing concern over TikTok, the social media app owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance, that its user data may be vulnerable to falling into the hands of the Chinese government, thus posing a potential threat to Western security interests.
In a statement, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden emphasized the importance of safeguarding sensitive government information, stating that the ban on the use of the app on government devices is necessary. Additionally, Dowden stated that the use of other data-extracting apps would be monitored and evaluated.
After the decision to ban TikTok was announced, the social media giant expressed its disappointment, noting that it had already implemented measures to strengthen the protection of European user data.
According to a spokesperson for TikTok, the company feels that the bans stem from misunderstandings and geopolitical tensions, and that TikTok and its UK user base have no involvement in these issues.
China’s embassy in London released a statement asserting that the decision to ban TikTok was driven by political motivations rather than factual evidence. The embassy went on to claim that the ban would disrupt the standard operations of affected companies within the UK, ultimately harming the UK’s interests.
Dowden added that government devices will now be restricted to accessing third-party apps exclusively from a pre-approved list. The ban on TikTok, however, does not extend to personal devices owned by government employees or ministers. Additionally, Dowden mentioned that there may be specific cases where TikTok usage would be necessary on government devices for work-related purposes, and in such cases, limited exemptions would be granted.
China has expressed discontent over several actions taken by the UK in recent times, including the exclusion of tech firm Huawei from the development of the country’s 5G network, preventing Chinese acquisitions of UK-based electronics companies, and disallowing China General Nuclear’s involvement in the construction of a new power plant.
During his unsuccessful bid to replace Boris Johnson in July, current UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had pledged to adopt a tough stance towards China, calling it the “number one threat” to global and domestic security, accusing the country of technology theft and university infiltration.
Yet, since taking office, Sunak has also stressed the importance of maintaining engagement with China, it remains to be seen whether more countries will follow suit in banning social media platforms like TikTok.
However, it raises the question of what other platforms could face similar bans in the future, and which country may be the next to adopt this decision.
Photo by Olivier Bergeron