The British government has joined those of the United States, and Canada in banning the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on government phones with immediate effect over concerns that the app passes user information to the Chinese government.
“The security of sensitive government information must come first, so today we are banning this app on government devices. The use of other data-extracting apps will be kept under review,” Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said.
“Restricting the use of TikTok on government devices is a prudent and proportionate step following advice from our cyber security experts” , Mr Dowden added.
The ban follows a request from Rishi Sunak’s government to the National Cyber Security Centre to look at the potential vulnerability of government data from social media apps in general.
TikTok said it was disappointed with the decision and had already begun taking steps to further protect European user data.
“We believe these bans have been based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics, in which TikTok, and our millions of users in the UK, play no part,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
China has described the decision as “political”, with its embassy in London saying the move “interferes” with the operations of UK companies and would only harm the UK economically.
Government ministers and civil servants will continue to be able to use the app on their personal devices.
British government departments and ministers have been increasingly using TikTok and other platforms to communicate with voters.
The Ministry of Defence posted a TikTok video just before the ban was announced showing how the British army was training Ukrainian forces to use battle tanks.