TikTok has been banned from UK Government phones with immediate effect due to “risks” to cyber-security.
The block on the Chinese-owned app came after a review by Government experts, according to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden.
He also revealed that on official devices, only third-party apps from an approved list would be permitted.
The restriction is in response to concerns that sensitive data of users could be accessed by Beijing authorities via TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, which has its headquarters in China.
Members of the government and officials will also be discouraged from keeping the contentious video-sharing app on their personal phones, but they will not be prohibited from using it in their spare time.
It follows moves by the United States, the European Union, and Canada to prohibit officials from using the app on work devices, and comes after the government declared that China poses an epoch-defining challenge.
Last year, Parliament’s TikTok account was shut down after MPs raised concerns about the firm’s ties to China. Since the summer, the official Downing Street TikTok page has not been updated. However, the Ministry of Defence only opened an account last week.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who has advocated for a tougher stance toward Beijing, applauded the development. However, he told MailOnline that the ban needed to be extended to ministers’ and senior civil servants’ personal phones in order to be effective.
‘They should be denied access while they are ministers. If it’s a security risk on government phones, it’s a security risk on their phones,’ he explained.
‘I’m sorry, but the idea that they only communicate with the government on secure phones is incorrect. This app should not be installed on their personal devices.’
TikTok has stated that bans are based on’misplaced fears and appear to be driven by larger geopolitics,’ and that it would be ‘disappointed by such a move’ in the UK.
But Alicia Kearns, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: ‘Significant questions remain around TikTok’s ability to act as a data Trojan Horse. The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens from hostile states’ acquisition of personal information.’
When asked earlier this week about a possible ban, security minister Tom Tugendhat told Times Radio that he had asked the National Cyber Security Centre, a branch of GCHQ, to assess the risk.
‘We need to make sure our phones aren’t spyware, but rather useful tools for us,’ he said.
It comes after the Biden administration threatened to ban TikTok in the United States unless the app’s Chinese owner sold its shares.