UK expected to ban TikTok from government devices

Britain's intelligence agency has reportedly identified security risks in the Chinese app

Western governments have become increasingly worried that China could use the platform to collect user data. Reuters
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The UK will ban TikTok from government devices over concerns about the security of the Chinese social media app, The Times reported on Sunday.

Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) identified risks to sensitive information following a review by the spy agency, according to the newspaper.

Western governments have become increasingly worried about China possibly using the platform to collect user data.

British MP Alicia Kearns, chairwoman of the House of Commons' foreign affairs committee, told The Times that “significant questions remain around TikTok’s ability to act as a data Trojan horse.”

Some UK institutions, including its parliament, have closed their official accounts on TikTok but many MPs and ministers still use it to reach younger constituents, said the newspaper.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance Ltd, is a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020.

Tik Tok denies that the Chinese government has any control or access to its platform, but the company admitted last year that some staff in China were able to gain access to European users' data.

It was later forced to confirm that ByteDance staff had used TikTok data to track journalists in an effort to identify a source of leaks to the media.

Belgium became the latest country on Friday to announce that it would ban TikTok from government phones, following similar moves made by EU institutions, Denmark's defence ministry, Canada and the US.

TikTok's chief executive Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before Congress on March 23.

Reacting to the Belgian decision, TikTok said in a statement it was disappointed by a decision it said was based on “fundamentally wrong information”.

The company said it stores user data in the US and Singapore and in its data centres in Europe.

“The Chinese government can't force other sovereign nations to share data that is stored in their territory”, a company spokesman said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office declined to comment on the alleged coming UK ban.

Updated: March 12, 2023, 11:38 AM