TikTok-ing bomb: UK bans app on govt phones after US, New Zealand next

Trouble mounts for TikTok a day after its Chinese owners were asked to divest stakes or face possible complete ban in the US.
Sejal Sharma
A spate of TikTok bans.
A spate of TikTok bans

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images 

Britain is the latest entry to the league of nations that has banned or limited TikTok on the phones of their federal employees and parliamentarians.

In what now seems to be a global domino effect, countries are worried that the Chinese-owned video app is in nexus with the Xi Jinping-led government, where the Beijing-based firm is liable to share all its user data with them. 

Earlier, the United States, Belgium, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Taiwan have placed similar bans on TikTok, which has over 800 million users worldwide. 

And now, reports are in that New Zealand will follow suit and ban TikTok on all devices with access to its parliament by the end of this month.

IE reported yesterday that China’s national security law mandates Chinese companies turn over customer data as and when requested by the government.

In the eye of the storm

The ban in the UK will not apply to the wider public, but only to "government-corporate devices" used by ministers and ministries. After the U.S. and the EU’s ban came into effect, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had been under pressure to follow suit. But government departments and individual ministers are quite active on TikTok, which is widely used among teens and young adults in the UK.

Downing Street — which last posted a TikTok video of Larry the Cat predicting football results — said it would continue to use TikTok to get the government's message out. It said there were exemptions to the ban under some circumstances, as reported by BBC.

Whereas in New Zealand, the app will be banned on all devices with access to parliament’s network by the end of March, reported Reuters. Parliamentary service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero told Reuters that their cybersecurity experts advised them to take the step and discussions were held within the government and with other countries. Special arrangements can be made for those who require the app to do their jobs, he added.

The spate of bans put a lot of pressure on ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, which already has a sword hanging over its head. The U.S. has given an ultimatum to either divest their stakes and sell the app or face a blanket ban in the states.

Expressing disappointment, TikTok earlier said that it believes the bans are based on "fundamental misconceptions" and driven by wider geopolitics, adding that it has spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.

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