TikTok Banned On Government Devices In New Security Rules
Oliver Dowden announced a ban of TikTok on government devices (parlimentlive.tv)
TikTok will be banned on government devices, and only pre-approved apps will be allowed across all government phones, Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office Oliver Dowden has confirmed.
TikTok specifically will not be allowed on government devices, but individuals – including MPs – will not be told to delete the app from personal devices. Most MPs who have the app are believed to be already using their personal devices rather than government phones to access it.
All government devices will now only be able to access third party apps that are on a pre-approved list. While this has already been the case in some departments, it will now be the system rolled out across government.
Dowden told the House of Commons he had asked the National Cyber Security Centre for a review into TikTok, which has now concluded and identified there "could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms".
Dowden said the government had taken an "evidence-based approach", although it is unclear what the NCSC has identified as a specific risk of TikTok to government devices.
"We are also going to ban the use of TikTok on government devices. We will do so with immediate effect," he told MPs.
"This is a precautionary move. We know that there is already limited use of TikTok across government, but it is also good cyber hygiene."
A row has been ongoing in Westminster over the use of TikTok by MPs and ministers, with a number of senior Conservative MPs calling for an outright ban on government devices to be implemented.
The app is popular with many MPs at all levels, including energy secretary Grant Shapps, who described it as an “immensely valuable” tool to communicate with the public, and insisted he will not be “chased off” the platform by its critics.
In response to the ban, Shapps posted a TikTok with a clip from the film 'The Wolf of Wall Street', in which Leonardo DiCaprio's character shouts: "I'm not fucking leaving!"
Shapps has said he only uses TikTok on his personal device, and therefore will not have to delete the app as a result of the new ban.
Dowden explained on Thursday that government devices contain "sensitive information" and that it is therefore "prudent and proportionate to restrict the use of certain apps particularly when it comes to apps where a large amounts of data can be stored and accessed".
The minister advised that individuals and members of the public should practice caution online and to consider each social media platforms data policies, before downloading and using them.
The TikTok ban comes days after the government launched its Integrated Review into security, which warned that China poses 'epoch-defining challenge' to world order.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, Dowden's opposition counterpart, criticised the government for not taking a clear approach on the issue, after technology secretary Michelle Donelan said only a few weeks ago that using TikTok should be a "personal choice".
"Once again, the government is late to the game," Rayner told the House of Commons.
"What's changed? Two weeks, two ministers, two completely different policies later, and it's the same pattern over and over again, a government behind the curve.
"We need a strong and clear eyed, consistent approach, one that ensures that we can protect our national security and put us in a strong position to engage with states such as China, where it's in our interest to do so such as in areas like climate change and trade."
She asked Dowden to go further in explaining the specific risks posed by TikTok to government devices.
Senior Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who has long called for tougher measures on TikTok, responded by calling for a "national conversation" surrounding "techno-authoritarianism" and the perceived data security threat from China, while former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith warned that it would be difficult to prevent ministers and officials using personal devices for government business, therefore potentially limiting the effectiveness of a ban.
Some critics of the platform, including Luke de Pulford, a human rights campaigner who coordinates the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, have accused the ban of being “another example of the UK’s 'too little too late' approach towards Beijing”.
A TikTok spokesperson told PoliticsHome earlier this week they would be "disappointed" by a ban of the app on government devices.
"Similar decisions elsewhere have been based on misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics, but we remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns," the spokesperson said.
"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."
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