The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok will be blocked from the devices and network of the United Kingdom parliament in the latest ban imposed on the app. The commissions of the House of Commons and House of Lords have stated that they will implement the same move taken by the UK government on official devices due to the need for cybersecurity, reported London-based Sky news.
The move comes as numerous countries are moving to curb the usage of TikTok citing data privacy and security reasons with the social media giant’s CEO Shou Zi Chew having been scrutinised by a United States Congressional hearing on Thursday. During the hearing, Chew argued that TikTok had been “unfairly singled out” and emphasised the company’s commitment to user privacy and data protection.
A UK parliament spokesman was quoted by Sky News, saying that TikTok “will be blocked from all parliamentary devices and the wider parliamentary network”. “Cyber security is a top priority for parliament, however we do not comment on specific details of our cyber or physical security controls, policies or incidents,” he said.
It has been clarified that TikTok can still be used on personal devices while on the parliamentary estate, as long as the devices are not connected to the Wi-Fi network of the parliament. The ban on TikTok applies only to official devices and the parliamentary network, and does not extend to personal devices.
The decision has been welcomed by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. However, he has called for the ban to be extended to include the personal devices of ministers as well.
He tweeted: “The decision to block TikTok from ALL parliamentary devices is welcome, a good decision. “Given this robust position in parliament following the ban of TikTok from govt phones, it’s now time that TikTok is also banned from ministers personal telephones.”
The decision to block TikTok from ALL parliamentary devices is welcome, a good decision.
Given this robust position in Parliament following the ban of TikTok from govt phones, it’s now time that TikTok is also banned from Ministers personal telephones.https://t.co/Sh7gDTcoF4
— Iain Duncan Smith MP (@MPIainDS) March 23, 2023
Similarly, in Scotland, the semi-autonomous government has also taken the decision to ban TikTok from government phones and other devices. The move has been made due to concerns about cybersecurity and data protection.
Sky news quoted Deputy first minister John Swinney who added: “Currently there is limited use of TikTok within government and limited need for staff to use the app on work devices. This ban will be implemented immediately. It does not extend to personal devices used by staff or the general public.”
‘Misguided and based on misconceptions’: TikTok on UK ban
But TikTok called UK parliament’s move “misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions about our company”.
“TikTok is enjoyed by millions of people in the UK, and potentially depriving users from access to and engagement with their representatives is a self-defeating step, especially in our shared fight against misinformation,” a spokesperson said.
“We are disappointed that, despite our requests, we have not been offered any opportunity to address concerns and only ask to be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.”
“We have begun implementing a comprehensive plan to further protect our European user data, which includes storing UK user data in our European data centres and tightening data access controls, including third-party independent oversight of our approach,” he added.
A look at the countries that have moved against TikTok
Apart from the ban in the United Kingdom, a growing number of countries in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific have banned the popular video-sharing app TikTok from government devices, citing privacy and cybersecurity concerns. Some countries have gone further and prohibited the app altogether.
TikTok’s CEO, who testified before US lawmakers on Thursday, has repeatedly stated that the company does not share user data with the Chinese government. The company has also launched a project to store US user data in the US, which it claims will prevent access to the data by the Chinese government. TikTok also disputes allegations that it collects more user data than other social media companies and maintains that it is independently managed.
Despite these claims, many governments continue to express concern about the app’s ties to China and its potential impact on privacy and cybersecurity.
A look at the places apart from UK that have implemented partial or total bans on TikTok:
The Taliban leadership in Afghanistan banned the popular video-sharing app TikTok and the game PUBG on the pretext of protecting young people from being misled in 2022.
According to reports, TikTok has been temporarily banned from devices owned or paid for by the federal government in Belgium due to concerns about cybersecurity, privacy, and misinformation. The ban, which is set to last for six months, was implemented based on warnings from the state security service and cybersecurity centre, as stated by Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.
Canada has announced that TikTok is deemed an “unacceptable” risk to privacy and security and has subsequently banned government-issued devices from using the app. Furthermore, employees will no longer be permitted to download the application in the future.
According to reports, Denmark’s Defence Ministry has banned its employees from using TikTok on their work phones. The ministry has ordered staffers who have installed the app to remove it from their devices as soon as possible. The ban was implemented due to “weighty security considerations” as well as a “very limited work-related need to use the app,” as stated by the ministry.
The three main institutions of the 27-member bloc – the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the EU Council – have imposed bans on TikTok for staff devices. The ban took effect on Monday and under the European Parliament’s restrictions, lawmakers and staff were advised to remove the TikTok app from their personal devices as well.
In 2020, India implemented a nationwide ban on TikTok and several other Chinese apps, such as WeChat, citing concerns over privacy and security. Although the companies were given an opportunity to address questions on privacy and security requirements, the ban became permanent in January 2021.
Following the advice of government cybersecurity experts, New Zealand’s lawmakers and staff at the nation’s Parliament will be banned from having the TikTok app on their work phones. The ban will take effect at the end of March and the app will be removed from all devices with access to the parliamentary network. However, officials can make special arrangements for those who require TikTok to perform their democratic duties.
On Thursday (March 23, 2023), the Norwegian parliament implemented a ban on TikTok for work devices following a warning from the country’s Justice Ministry advising against installing the app on government-issued phones. The Parliament’s speaker emphasised that TikTok should be removed from any devices that have access to the assembly’s systems as soon as possible. In addition, the capital city of Oslo and Bergen, the second-largest city in Norway, urged their municipal employees to remove TikTok from their work phones.
Since October 2020, Pakistani authorities have temporarily banned TikTok at least four times, citing concerns over immoral content being promoted on the app.
In December 2022, Taiwan issued a ban on TikTok for the public sector after the FBI warned of the app’s potential threat to national security. The ban prohibits the use of Chinese-made software, including TikTok, Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), and Xiaohongshu (a Chinese lifestyle content app), on government devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computers.
In early March, the United States government instructed federal agencies to remove TikTok from their devices and systems due to concerns over data security. However, the ban only applies to government devices, though some politicians have called for a complete ban on the app. The Chinese government criticised the ban, accusing the US of abusing its power and suppressing foreign companies. Additionally, over half of the US states, as well as Congress and the armed forces, have also prohibited the use of TikTok on official devices.