UK Bans TikTok on Government Devices, US-Wide Ban Looms

UK bans TikTok on government devices

Photo Credit: Ming Jun Tan

The UK has announced a ban on TikTok on any government-owned device used by employees. 

According to Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden, a review by British cybersecurity experts suggested the ban. Experts determined it is “clear that there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms.” TikTok collects huge swathes of data, including location, contacts, apps installed on the device, and more.

“The security of sensitive government information must come first, so today we are banning this app on government devices,” the minister says in a press statement. “The use of other data-extracting apps will be kept under review.” UK government devices will only be able to access third-party apps that are on a pre-approved list going forward. 

Meanwhile, the United States is considering an outright ban on TikTok unless the app is divested from its Chinese owners. Sound familiar? That’s because the same thing almost happened under the Trump presidency. TikTok expressed its dismay that the UK would take this step.

“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 told NBC News about the ban. “TikTok remains committed to working with the government to address any concerns but should be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.”

“We have begun implementing a comprehensive plan to further protect our European user data, which includes storing UK user data in our European data centres and tightening data access controls, including third-party independent oversight of our approach.”

The United States banned TikTok on federal devices in February 2023—but the military instituted bans in 2019. Following the federal ban on TikTok in the United States, the European Commission also issued a ban on its employees installing TikTok on their corporate and personal devices.