LONDON — British authorities announced on Thursday that they are banning Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok from government phones over security concerns, after the US and European Union took similar steps.
Cabinet Secretary Oliver Dowden told Parliament the ban applies immediately to work phones and other devices used by government ministers and civil servants. He described the ban as a “precautionary measure” and said it doesn’t apply to personal phones and devices.
“Given the particular risk associated with government devices that may contain sensitive information, it is both prudent and proportionate to restrict the use of certain apps, particularly when it comes to apps where a large amount of data can be stored and retrieved,” he said Dowden British Legislature.
The US government last month ordered federal agency employees to wipe TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices. Congress, the White House, the US armed forces and more than half of US states had already banned the app.
The European Union, Belgium and others have also temporarily banned the app from employees’ phones.
The moves were prompted by growing concerns that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, would share user data, such as browsing history and location, with the Chinese government or spread propaganda and misinformation on its behalf.
The company has insisted such concerns are based on “misinformation” and said it is taking steps to improve protections for UK and European user data.
“We believe these bans are based on fundamental misunderstandings and are driven by a broader geopolitics, in which TikTok and our millions of users in the UK play no part,” the company said. “We remain committed to working with the government to address concerns but should be judged on facts and put on an equal footing with our competitors.”
China on Thursday accused the United States of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok after reports that the Biden government was asking the short-form video service’s Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the popular app.
Last year, the UK Parliament shut down its TikTok account, which was meant to reach a younger audience, just days after it was launched after lawmakers raised concerns.
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