News, Politics

U.K. Bans TikTok on Government Devices

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 1, 2023

The United Kingdom bans the use of TikTok on official government electronic devices over particular risks associated with devices containing sensitive information. This commensurate restriction was imposed by its allies, the United States, Canada and the European Union. This measure mirrors the disquieting concerns about TikTok’s association with China through its antecedent company, Byte Dance, and trepidation of personal information being revealed to the Chinese government when faced with pressure.

TikTok expresses that there are strong reasons to deduce these bans are a result of primary misapprehension and propelled by immense geopolitics in which Tiktok and its users have no part in

“We continue to maintain allegiance with the government in addressing suspected concerns, but should be solely judged on facts and handled equally to our competitors.”

The company states its intentions to vigorously employ bureaucratic and technical measures in addressing the security concerns put forward by the United States. These measures will directly scale down EU and US data from its global operations. 

The cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden announced yesterday at parliament, saying, “Because of the limited use of TikTok within the government, this was done as a precaution, but also a good cyber hygiene that is prudent given the special risk associated with government equipment that holds sensitive information.” 

Government corporate devices in ministerial and non-ministerial departments are subject to this ban. However, deliberate minimal exemptions will be considered for using TikTok on official government devices for operational reasons. This implies that Security teams will only grant those exemptions case-by-case basis, with ministerial clearance provided as appropriate. Countries like the United States, the European Union’s executive arm, Canada and India have taken similar steps. New Zealand is working to join them.

This new policy does not extend to the personal devices of government employees, ministers, or the general public.

In December, US Presidents Joe Biden signed the legislation banning the use of Tik TOK on federal government official devices aligning with over half of US states. The lawmakers also have contemplated extending Joe Biden’s administrative authority to impose a nationwide ban on TikTok. 

With over one billion users, TikTok has become a significant player in the music industry. Digital Music News has chronicled the rise of the app from a little-known karaoke app to a social media sensation, along with all the bumps in the road.

Tiktok, as software is designed to collect users’ data. When users click a TikTok link, it generates an anonymous data ID that links the user ID to items like: 

  • the platform from which access is granted to the video 
  • where and when users accessed the video 
  • IP address used to access the video 
  • If the user used the platform to search 
  • What fresh content did the user see? 
  • The program the user was using just before watching TikTok content

This anonymous shadow ID creates a profile of the items users liked, with or without a TikTok profile. Past watch history generates new recommendations when the TikTok algorithm finds the same user again. TikTok can extrapolate other information from the video watched. This includes:

  • age range, 
  • gender, 
  • interests determined by reading content, 
  • biometric data like voice and facial prints. 

New users must provide an email address, phone number, and birthdate when joining TikTok. As stated in its privacy policy, TikTok adds this anonymised metadata to data that might be shared with advertisers.

In addition, TikTok discloses that if the content is uploaded or downloaded on the app or shared with a third-party platform, TikTok will collect text, photos, and video from the device’s clipboard. 

The British parliament expresses a sense of fear with this action alongside their western allies that TikTok may harvest these data and share them with the Beijing government. 

This was announced yesterday and only applies to active government devices with the restricted exemption of workers whose jobs may require TikTok.

TikTok gave a follow-up stating that it does not provide the Chinese authorities with any information. It expressed its disappointment with the British government’s decision on Thursday. According to the spokesperson, TikTok even stores data in data centres across the continent to tighten access.

As the United States adopts this policy, Tik Tok has been prohibited from being used on government-issued devices in more than two dozen states. Several colleges have barred it from campus Wi-Fi networks and on computers used by service people in the United States. The application has been prohibited for three years in the united states.

In the UK, this action follows an already heated situation between London and Beijing following an altercation that broke out at a pro-democracy protest near the Chinese Consulate in Manchester, in the north.

This policy is met with criticism as a labour deputy leader describes it as “closing the doors after the horse has run off.” The complaint goes further to point out that many government phones are being used in the workplace. Private phones are also present and certainly can be used while in the workplace for light work such as checking emails, communicating with coworkers, and many more. 

This ban affects Tiktok and several other third-party apps as this is a window to them being subject to rigorous screening and approval before being allowed on government devices.

Although the minister advised people to “exercise caution online,” using TikTok on personal devices in the UK is still permitted. As the UK joins the growing list of countries to be wary of the said app TikTok. 


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