Britain is planning to ban TikTok on public phones, following similar moves in the US and the European Union.

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LONDON — Britain on Thursday announced plans to ban the use of the Chinese video app TikTok on state-owned corporate devices.

Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden said that following a review by UK cyber security experts, “it is clear that there may be a risk in how certain platforms access and use sensitive government data”.

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Dowden added that the apps collect a huge amount of data about users, including contacts and location. On government devices, that “data can be sensitive,” he said.

“The security of sensitive government information must come first, which is why we’re banning this app from government devices today. The use of other data mining applications will be monitored,” the minister said in a press statement.

The ban on TikTok is effective immediately, according to Dowden, who noted the move was “preemptive.”

He confirmed that the ban does not apply to the personal devices of civil servants. “This is a proportionate step based on the specific risk with government devices.”

Exceptions for the use of TikTok on government devices are implemented when necessary for work purposes, but “will only be granted by security teams on a case-by-case basis, with appropriate ministerial approval and security measures in place,” the government said.

The minister also said that government devices will only be able to access third-party apps that are on a pre-approved list.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the company was disappointed by the UK government’s decision.

“We believe these bans are based on fundamental misconceptions and are driven by wider geopolitics in which TikTok and our millions of UK users play no part. We remain committed to working with the government to resolve any issues, but must be judged on the facts and treat our competitors equally,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

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


The UK move follows similar rules in the US and the European Union. In late February, the White House gave government agencies 30 days to make sure TikTok was not installed on federal devices. The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, also banned employees from installing TikTok on corporate and personal devices.

Lawmakers in Washington have repeatedly expressed concern that the data of US users on TikTok could be sent to China and end up in the hands of the government in Beijing.

TikTok has repeatedly highlighted the work they are doing to protect the data of US users. Last year, the company introduced “Project Texas” to “completely protect user data and US national security interests.”

TikTok said it was working with US company Oracle to store all US data by default in the US firm’s cloud to calm Washington’s fears.

Pressure on TikTok is growing worldwide. The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) ordered ByteDance to sell its shares in TikTok or the app could face a US ban. Any ban would strangle TikTok from the huge US market.

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