Daily Mail

TikTok banned

App off limits for ministers and Whitehall amid spy fears

- By Martin Beckford Policy Editor

MINISTERS, advisers and civil servants will be banned from having TikTok on their work phones this week over China spying fears.

Members of the Government and officials will also be discourage­d from keeping the controvers­ial video-sharing app on their personal phones, after safety risks were identified by the intelligen­ce services.

The restrictio­ns will be announced later this week in response to concerns that users’ sensitive data could be accessed by the authoritie­s in Beijing from the firm’s owner ByteDance, which has its headquarte­rs in China. But it is understood that a total UK ban on TikTok, preventing the public from accessing it, is not under considerat­ion.

It follows moves by the US, the EU and Canada to stop officials using the app on their work devices, and comes after the Government declared that China ‘poses an epoch-defining challenge’.

Asked about a possible ban yesterday, security minister Tom Tugendhat told Times Radio he had asked the National Cyber Security Centre, a branch of GCHQ, to assess the risk. ‘We need to make sure that our phones are not spyware, but useful tools for us,’ he said.

Asked if the review could mean a ban on TikTok, he replied: ‘It will be addressed with the challenges we face, with the threats we face. I’m not going to give you an answer until I know what the risks are.’

When Rishi Sunak was asked this week if the Government was considerin­g a ban on the app, he replied: ‘We want to make sure that we protect the integrity and security of sensitive informatio­n. And we will always do that and take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that happens.’

The official Downing Street TikTok page has not been updated since the summer. Ministers have come under pressure to take tougher action from China hawks, with Tory chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee Alicia Kearns saying people should ‘without question’ delete the app.

TikTok’s own privacy policy admits that data from European and British users can be accessed by staff in China, although the firm insists it does not cooperate with the government there.

A spokesman for TikTok, believed to have nine million active users in the UK, said: ‘Similar decisions elsewhere [about bans on Tiktok] have been based on misplaced fears, but we remain committed to working with the Government to address any concerns.

‘We have begun implementi­ng a comprehens­ive plan to further protect our European user data. TikTok is enjoyed by millions of people in the UK safely and securely.’

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