TikTok is facing a ban on government devices in the UK over data security and privacy concerns. The possible ban reflects similar measures recently enforced in half of the US states, which banned the popular short-video app from work devices.
TikTok has already been suspended from official devices by the EU Commission over fears of potential cyberattacks. Canada also banned the short-video platform from staff mobiles last month.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent comments have fuelled speculations that TikTok might soon be banned from government devices across the UK too. The premier remarked he will take “whatever steps are necessary” to ensure UK’s security and that the government takes security of their devices “seriously”.
“We want to make sure that we protect the integrity and security of sensitive information,” PM Sunak said in a statement to the press. “And we will always do that and take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that happens.”
TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based tech conglomerate ByteDance, has drawn intense regulatory scrutiny over its potential ties with the Chinese government. Concerns are that TikTok might be forced into handing over sensitive user data from both sides of the Atlantic to the Chinese government under the country’s strict laws. The regulators and lawmakers sprang into action after TikTok confirmed last year that some of its staff based in China could access European user data.
TikTok has since been trying to allay widespread concerns related to its handling of user data, reiterating that sensitive information is safe at the firm.
Additionally, the UK’s Home Office Minister Tom Tugendhat has asked official cyber-security experts to investigate the risks posed by TikTok.
“Understanding the challenges these apps pose, what they are asking for and how they reach into our lives, is incredibly important,” the minister said. “That is why I have asked the National Cyber Security Centre to look into this.”
TikTok responded to the reports by stating that it would disappointed if the platform was banned in the UK.
“While we await details of any specific concerns the UK government may have, we would be disappointed by such a move,” a TikTok spokesperson said. “Similar decisions elsewhere have been based on misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics, but we remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns.”
In an attempt to pacify apprehensive policy advisers, TikTok recently launched a data security program titled Project Clover. It will involve monitoring of data flows outside Europe by a third-party company in addition to user data being stored locally on servers in Ireland and Norway.
The project will cost ByteDance over a billion dollars a year.