The widely-used social media platform TikTok has been barred from UK government devices due to data security worries related to the app’s ties with the Chinese government.

ByteDance Ownership and Global Popularity

TikTok, a short-form video-sharing app boasting over 3.5 billion global downloads, is owned by Beijing-based technology powerhouse ByteDance. Despite the company’s denial of the Chinese government’s access to user data, UK ministers have opted to ban the app as a “precautionary measure,” according to Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden.

Protecting Sensitive Government Information

Dowden emphasized that the “security of sensitive government information must come first.” The National Cyber Security Centre conducted a review of the app before the ban was instituted. This decision will only impact government-issued devices for ministers and civil servants, allowing officials to continue using TikTok on their personal devices. Dowden cited a “specific risk with government devices.”

Advice on Practicing Caution Online

Dowden further advised individuals to exercise caution online and carefully consider each social media platform’s data policies prior to downloading and using them.

US Government’s Similar Decision

The UK’s move to ban TikTok on government devices echoes a previous decision by the US, which has also demanded ByteDance divest TikTok to a non-Chinese owner in order to avoid a total ban in America.

TikTok’s Response and Future Plans

A TikTok spokesperson expressed disappointment with the decision, suggesting that the ban was based on “fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics.” The spokesperson also stated that the company is committed to collaborating with the government to address concerns, and that it should be “judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.” TikTok has initiated a comprehensive plan to further safeguard European user data, including storing UK user data in European data centers and enhancing data access controls with third-party independent oversight.