The UK’s parliament on Thursday became the latest public organisation to ban the Chinese-owned TikTok app from its devices and networks as concern mounted about the security implications of its use.
The decision by the commissions that run both the House of Commons and the House of Lords comes just a week after the UK government barred the app from all government-owned devices used by ministers or officials. The Cabinet Office attributed that decision to the “potential vulnerability of government data”.
The social media network has faced claims that the data it collects on users could be passed to the Chinese government and Communist Party, claims the company has denied.
The EU and the governments of the US and Canada have also introduced various types of ban on the app in recent months.
Parliament said on Thursday: “Following the government’s decision to ban TikTok from government devices, the commissions of both the House of Commons and Lords have decided that TikTok will be blocked from all parliamentary devices and the wider parliamentary network.”
“Cyber security is a top priority for parliament,” it said, adding that it did not comment on “specific details” of its “cyber or physical security controls, policies or incidents”.
TikTok said the ban was “misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions” about the company, adding that it was “disappointed” not to be “treated equally to our competitors”.
“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,” the company said.
TikTok has sought to reassure regulators that it will treat users’ information securely and has committed to storing all UK user data in European storage centres. UK data is currently stored in the US and Singapore.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative party leader who is a China hawk, wrote on Twitter that blocking the app from all parliamentary devices was “welcome, a good decision”.
“Given this robust position in parliament following the ban of TikTok from government phones, it’s now time that TikTok is also banned from ministers’ personal telephones,” he wrote.
The legislature’s ban comes on the day that TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew appeared on Capitol Hill in Washington to defend the app from US government accusations that it compromises users’ security.
In December, the company revealed that staff in the US and China had inappropriately obtained the data of users, including UK-based Financial Times reporter Cristina Criddle, who had led a string of stories about the company’s UK operation. TikTok said the staff responsible had now left the company.
UK government concerns around the app escalated when Conservative MP Luke Evans posted a video of himself passing through security at Downing Street, revealing potentially damaging information about the security measures.
The UK has previously been far less aggressive than the US in its stance on TikTok. Regulators in Washington are threatening to ban the app from the entire US if ByteDance, the app’s Beijing-based controlling shareholder, refuses to dispose of its stake.