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UK Bans TikTok on Government Devices, Joins Other Western Countries

The United Kingdom (UK) has announced a ban on TikTok for all government devices, joining other Western countries who have taken a hostile approach to the app.[0] This comes as lawmakers and regulators have become increasingly concerned that TikTok and its parent company ByteDance may pass sensitive user data, such as location information, to the Chinese government.[1]

TikTok has denied these claims and stated that their user data is stored in the US and Singapore, not China.[2] A spokesperson for the company said they are “disappointed” with the decision and believe it is “based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics.” The platform has nine million active users in the UK and remains committed to working with the government to address any concerns.[3]

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to appear before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee next week to answer questions about their data collection and sharing procedures.[4] He is expected to face tough questions over the perceived security risks presented by the app, in light of the Biden Administration's threat to ban the platform unless ByteDance, it's Chinese parent company, sells it.

The app firm is considering separating from ByteDance as “a last resort” to help address US concerns about national security risks.[5] It also outlined a new data policy, named Project Clover, designed to convince European lawmakers it is not a security threat, which will introduce “security gateways” governing employee access to European user information and data transfers outside of the continent.

The minister has also said that government devices will only be able to access third-party apps on a pre-approved list.[6] India was the first to ban TikTok and other Chinese-owned applications nationwide in June 2020, citing privacy and security concerns.[7] Pakistan has temporarily banned TikTok at least four times, and Afghanistan's Taliban government has also banned the app.[8]

In the US, a Republican senator, Josh Hawley of Missouri, has introduced a bill to ban TikTok for all Americans, while a separate bipartisan bill seeks to ban TikTok and target any similar social media companies from countries like Russia and Iran.[1] In Singapore, TikTok is only allowed to be used by public officers on government-issued devices on a “need-to basis”.[5]

0. “TikTok's data lust is not unique – and this ban robs the government of a powerful tool” Sky News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://news.sky.com/story/tiktoks-data-lust-is-not-unique-and-this-ban-robs-the-government-of-a-powerful-tool-12835392

1. “Why Is TikTok Being Banned?” The New York Times, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/article/tiktok-ban.html

2. “MPs and peers ask information commissioner to investigate TikTok” The Guardian, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/mar/16/mps-and-peers-ask-information-commissioner-to-investigate-tiktok

3. “TikTok banned from phones of ministers and Whitehall staff” Daily Mail, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11860645/TikTok-banned-phones-ministers-Whitehall-staff.html

4. “Who Wins If TikTok Loses in the US?” PYMNTS.com, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.pymnts.com/cybersecurity/2023/who-wins-if-tiktok-loses-in-the-us/

5. “Singapore government says officers can only use TikTok on issued devices on a ‘need-to basis'” TODAY, 17 Mar. 2023, https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/singapore-government-says-officers-can-only-use-tiktok-issued-devices-need-basis-2131846

6. “UK bans TikTok on government devices following U.S. move” CNBC, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/16/uk-bans-tiktok-on-government-devices-following-us-move.html

7. “Security minister asks cyber experts to investigate TikTok” BBC, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-64950157

8. “Why the U.S. Wants to Ban TikTok | Time” TIME, 16 Mar. 2023, https://time.com/6263851/why-us-wants-to-ban-tiktok

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