Government announces TikTok ban
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The Government has announced civil servants and government officials will be banned from downloading TikTok to their government phones after the Cabinet Office ordered a mass security review. The review found that government policy on tech security needed tightening up in light of the amount of data harvested by social media apps, and the sensitivity of some of that data stored on government devices.
Cabinet Office secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed the news in the Commons this lunchtime, announcing that the government is moving to a new system whereby all government devices will only be able to access a limited app store of pre-approved third-party applications.
He said such a system was already in place across “many departments”.
Secondly, he said that list will not include TikTok, and so will be effectively banned “with immediate effect”.
The senior minister said that this is a “precautionary move”.
“We know there is limited use of TikTok across government, but it is also good cyber hygiene.”
Despite the ban, senior Cabinet Minister Grant Shapps vowed he will not be deleting his presence on the app.
He says that while security measures – like not sharing location permission – are sensible, he is concerned that public representatives who choose not to engage with the public on the platforms they actually use “are unlikely to continue to represent these voters for long”.
A spokesperson clarified he has never used TikTok on government devices.
While the move by Mr Dowden to ban TikTok from government devices was welcomed by some MPs, Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the ban doesn’t go far enough.
China hawk Sir Iain noted that most of the UK’s allies have already implemented such a ban, but we “can’t stop there”.
He added: “The reality is that even though government phones will have this taken out of them… the key thing here is that private telephones remain on their desks. Private phones are used for communications.”
“I honestly don’t believe… that these phones will never be used for government business. They will be, they are, and there’s no way of stopping that to some degree.
“So can he not now say any government minister or senior official that has their private phone with TikTok should remove it because that gets rid of the risk.”
While TikTok isn’t typically used for official business, some ministers do use it to communicate with the public.
Prior to stepping down Boris Johnson began uploading to the platform, though the 10 Downing Street TikTok account hasn’t been used since July last year.
Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries used to use the platform, and Secretary for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps regularly uploads.
This afternoon Mrs Dorries said: “Today I removed TikTok and I think all MPs should do likewise.”
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Tory MP Marco Longhi has posted on the app before, frequently to make jokes about the Labour Party.
Asked by The Daily Express whether he would be deleting the app, Mr Longhi said today’s announcement “is a worrying development and it follows some other countries’ actions.”
“I do have a TikTok account and I am going to wait and see what the official advice from the National Cyber Security Centre is – I do believe they have been instructed to look into Tiktok.
“Tiktok is a fun platform that is increasingly being used by the young and the not-so-young like me, and I’d be surprised if several other SM platforms are not Chinese tech-based too.
“As a politician I will try to engage with as many people as I can using many different channels. I cannot see why, other than maybe comms departments, government taxpayer-funded phones should have Tiktok on them anyway!
“Let’s wait and see what the advice is.”
Last week the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, told a US Senate committee that TikTok “screams” of a US national security concern.
Mr Wray warned US politicians that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control the data of millions of American users.
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