Britain is set to announce a ban on TikTok on government phones on Thursday, PA Media reported, a move that would follow other Western countries who have barred the Chinese-owned video app over security concerns.
TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny due to fears that user data from the app owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre has been reviewing whether TikTok should be barred from government phones, while the US, Canada, Belgium, and the European Commission have already banned the app.
When asked about a potential ban on TikTok, security minister Tom Tugendhat said earlier in the week that understanding the challenges posed by these apps was “incredibly important.” TikTok has said it would be disappointed by such a ban.
The government is expected to make a statement on the security of its devices later on Thursday.
Meanwhile, TikTok said on Wednesday that the Biden administration has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes in the popular video app or face a possible US ban.
The move is the most dramatic in a series of recent steps by US officials and legislators who have raised fears that TikTok’s US user data could be passed on to China’s government. ByteDance-owned TikTok has more than 100 million US users.
It is also the first time under the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden that a potential ban on TikTok has been threatened. Biden’s predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, had tried to ban TikTok in 2020 but was blocked by US courts.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter told Reuters that the company had recently heard from the US Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which demanded that the Chinese owners of the app sell their shares, and said otherwise they would face a possible US ban of the video app.
© Thomson Reuters 2023