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UK Joins Growing List of Countries Banning TikTok Amid Security Concerns

The United Kingdom is the latest to join the growing list of countries banning the popular social media app TikTok from all government devices.[0] The British government announced the ban on Thursday following a review by cybersecurity officials that indicated the app posed security threats. This move comes after other European governments and the U.S. have taken an increasingly hostile approach to the app due to its links to the Chinese government.

Lawmakers and regulators in the West have expressed concern that TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, may put sensitive user data, like location information, into the hands of the Chinese government.[1] Laws allowing the Chinese government to obtain data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence purposes without disclosure have been referenced.[2] There is concern that China might exploit TikTok's content suggestions to spread falsehoods.[2]

TikTok responded by saying it was “disappointed” with the decision and said bans were based on “fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics”.[3] The company has also said it has begun work on “a comprehensive plan” to protect European user data, including storing UK user data in its European datacentres and including third-party independent oversight of its approach.[4]

The Biden administration wants TikTok’s Chinese parent company to divest itself of the popular social media platform, or it could face a possible nationwide ban, TikTok confirmed to CBS News on Wednesday.[5] In response, TikTok touts its new EU data privacy and security efforts, dubbed Project Clover, that will see the company introduce “security gateways” governing employee access to European user information and data transfers outside of the continent.[0]

In Singapore, TikTok is only allowed to be used by public officers on government-issued devices on a “need-to basis”.[6] When asked this week whether the UK would ban TikTok on government phones, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “We take the security of devices seriously and we look also at what our allies are doing.”[7]

The bans and potential bans underscore mounting concerns that the app’s user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.[6] Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, is scheduled to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee later in the month.[5] Tough questions concerning the firm's data collection and sharing practices are anticipated to be put to him.[5]

0. “Project Clover is TikTok's effort to get ahead of EU privacy and security concerns” Engadget, 8 Mar. 2023, https://www.engadget.com/project-clover-is-tiktoks-effort-to-get-ahead-of-eu-privacy-and-security-concerns-173813888.html

1. “TikTok banned from phones of ministers and Whitehall staff” Daily Mail, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11860645/TikTok-banned-phones-ministers-Whitehall-staff.html

2. “Why Is TikTok Being Banned?” The New York Times, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/article/tiktok-ban.html

3. “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

4. “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

5. “TikTok ban in U.S. could be imposed by Biden administration if China-owned ByteDance doesn't divest” CBS News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tiktok-ban-biden-admin-asks-for-divestment-from-bytedance/

6. “Singapore government says officers can only use TikTok on issued devices on a ‘need-to basis'” TODAY, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/singapore-government-says-officers-can-only-use-tiktok-issued-devices-need-basis-2131846

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

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