Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Risks not acceptable…: After US, UK, New Zealand says no to TikTok on govt phones over security fears

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The UK on Thursday announced plans to ban the use of the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on government corporate devices. New Zealand’s parliament will also ban TikTok from all parliamentary devices, amid mounting international security concerns surrounding the app.

The UK The government fears sensitive data held on official phones could be accessed by the Chinese government (Photo: Reuters)

By India Today World Desk: The video-sharing app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which is under increasing scrutiny over national security fears, has now been banned by British government ministers. Western nations, including the European Union and the United States, have been taking an increasingly tough approach to the app, citing fears that user data could be used or abused by Chinese officials.

TikTok will be banned from UK government phones amid security concerns, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden announced in Parliament on Thursday.

In the United States, the Biden administration threatened a nationwide ban on the app unless its Chinese owner promised to sell its stake in the company. TikTok said that US officials have recommended the popular video-sharing app to part ways with its Chinese parent company ByteDance to avoid a national ban.

UK lawmakers have been banned from using TikTok on their work phones and devices on security grounds. Oliver Dowden said the ban was a “precautionary” move but would come into effect immediately, The BBC reported.

The ban in Britain came after countries like the US, Canada, the European Union (EU) and also India have already banned TikTok entirely. However, the company strongly denies sharing user data with the Chinese government.


Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told MPs in British parliament that there “could be” a risk to how government data and information is used by the app, reported news agency PTI.

“The security of sensitive government information must come first, so today we are banning this app on government devices,” said Dowden.

“The use of other data-extracting apps will be kept under review. Restricting the use of TikTok on government devices is a prudent and proportionate step following advice from our cyber security experts,” he said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had been under pressure from senior MPs to follow the US and the European Union in barring the video-sharing app from official government devices, The BBC said in a report.

Downing Street said it would continue to use TikTok to get the government’s message out. It said there were exemptions to the ban under some circumstances, the report added.

ALSO READ | Biden to get new powers to ban TikTok, other China-owned apps posing security risks


Amid fears of security concerns, New Zealand has also decided to ban TikTok on devices with access to the parliamentary network, a government official told Reuters.

TikTok will be banned on all devices with access to New Zealand’s parliamentary network by the end of March, said Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero. The MPs were told in an email that “the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand parliament environment”.

“The decision to block the TikTok application has been made based on our own analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally,” the email reads, reported The Guardian.

Gonzalez-Montero, in an email to Reuters, said the decision was taken after advice from cybersecurity experts and discussions within government and with other countries.

“Based on this information, the service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand Parliamentary environment,” he said.

Special arrangements can be made for those who require the app to do their jobs, he added.

ALSO READ | White House sets deadline for purging TikTok from federal devices


Concerns around TikTok grew when a handful of Western journalists were found to have been tracked by ByteDance employees. ByteDance said it fired four employees who accessed data on two journalists from Buzzfeed News and The Financial Times while attempting to track down the source of a leaked report about the company.

The White House has said that the app can threaten America’s safety and its national security. It last week welcomed a bill introduced in the US Senate that would allow President Joe Biden to ban TikTok.

US government workers in January were banned from installing TikTok on their government-issued devices.

Responding to a media query over the TikTok ban during a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We have expressed concerns over China’s potential use of software platforms that could endanger or threaten America’s safety and national security so that is the President concerned that is why we have called on Congress to take action.”

“We have legitimate national security concerns with respect to data integrity that we need to observe,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was quoted by AP as saying.

However, China’s Foreign Ministry has accused the United States itself of spreading disinformation about TikTok’s potential security risks amid reports the White House wants its Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the firm. It said US has failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens US national security.

Quearn – Do QnA

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