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UK Government Bans TikTok from Official Devices: Mixed Reactions

The United Kingdom has banned TikTok from official government devices, following similar restrictions imposed by Canada, the European Union, and the United States.[0] The decision, announced by Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden, is a precautionary move based on fears that sensitive government data could be accessed by the Chinese government.[1]

The ban applies to all government corporate devices, but not to personal devices for ministers or the general public.[2] The U.K. National Cyber Security Centre conducted a review of the app and concluded that there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used.[3]

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat told Times Radio: “We need to make sure that our phones are not spyware, but useful tools for us.”[4] Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had also been under pressure from senior MPs to follow the US and the European Union in barring the video-sharing app from official government devices.[5]

In response to the ban, a TikTok spokesperson said they were disappointed, and that they believe the restrictions were based on “fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics.”[6] They also highlighted their “Project Clover” push to bolster data security for European users, noting new security gateways governing employee access to European user information and data transfers outside of the continent.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of the Conservative Party, stated that private phones are being utilized for governmental affairs.[7]” MPs pressed for the ban to cover such devices.[5]

Understanding the challenges posed by these apps is “incredibly important,” said Sunak, while Dowden noted that the ban was a “precautionary” move.[8] TikTok has strongly denied allegations that it hands users’ data to the Chinese government.[9]

The ban has been met with mixed reactions. Former minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith said he supports the decision, while Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would not be leaving TikTok anytime soon. Conversations about the implications for China are ongoing.

0. “UK bans TikTok on government devices” CNN, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/16/tech/uk-tiktok-government-device-ban/index.html

1. “City of Kitchener joins growing list of governments, organizations banning TikTok” Waterloo Region Record, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2023/03/13/city-of-kitchener-joins-growing-list-of-governments-organizations-banning-tiktok.html

2. “UK bans TikTok on govt devices” Vanguard, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/03/uk-bans-tiktok-on-govt-devices

3. “UK bans TikTok on government devices following U.S. move” CNBC, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/16/uk-bans-tiktok-on-government-devices-following-us-move.html

4. “Security minister asks cyber experts to investigate TikTok” BBC, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-64950157

5. “Grant Shapps stays on TikTok and cites ‘I’m not f***ing leaving’ meme” The Independent, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tiktok-ban-grant-shapps-dicaprio-b2302265.html

6. “UK ministers banned from using Chinese app TikTok on government phones” BBC, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-64975672

7. “TikTok banned on UK government phones” POLITICO Europe, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.politico.eu/article/tiktok-banned-on-government-phones

8. “Minister orders GCHQ review of TikTok over national security fears” The Telegraph, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2023/03/14/minister-orders-gchq-review-tiktok-national-security-fears/

9. “UK.gov bans TikTok from its devices as a ‘precaution' over spying fears” The Register, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.theregister.com/2023/03/16/ukgov_bans_tiktok_from_work_devices/

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