London: The British government has banned the use of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok on government mobile phones due to security concerns. Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden announced the ban, which applies immediately to work phones and devices used by ministers and civil servants, citing the particular risk around government devices, which may contain sensitive information. The ban does not apply to personal phones and devices. Similar moves have been made by the US government, which mandated last month that employees of federal agencies delete TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices, and the European Union, Belgium, and others, which have temporarily banned the app from employee phones.
The actions follow concerns that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, could give user data, such as browsing history and location, to the Chinese government or use the app to spread propaganda and misinformation on behalf of the government. TikTok has denied such concerns, calling them based on “misinformation” and saying that it is taking steps to improve the protection of user data from the UK and Europe.
The company issued a statement saying that it believes the bans are based on “fundamental misconceptions” and driven by “wider geopolitics” in which TikTok and its millions of UK users play no part. The statement also said that TikTok remains committed to working with the government to address any concerns and should be judged on facts and treated equally to its competitors.
Meanwhile, China has accused the US of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok, following reports that the Biden administration was calling for the app’s Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the popular app. In 2020, the UK’s Parliament shut down its TikTok account, intended to reach younger audiences, just days after its launch, following concerns raised by lawmakers.