Security minister does not rule out full TikTok ban as he orders cyber review
The security minister has not ruled out imposing a ban on TikTok in the UK after ordering a review of the Chinese-owned app by cyber-security chiefs.
Tom Tugendhat said on Tuesday he is awaiting a report from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) before deciding on the “hugely important question”.
TikTok said bans in other countries have been based on “misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics”, adding that it would be “disappointed by such a move” in the UK.
Under pressure from some senior MPs, Rishi Sunak has hinted that Britain could follow the US and the EU by banning the social media app from government phones and devices.
The Prime Minister said the UK will “look at what our allies are doing”, with Washington and the European Commission having banned TikTok on staff phones.
Mr Tugendhat was asked if he would go further and order a fully-fledged ban on the app, like those ordered by India and former US president Donald Trump.
“I don’t have it, and the Prime Minister asked me to defend the leading democracy taskforce a little while ago, and as part of that we’re looking at the various threats to parliamentarians but also to journalists,” he told Times Radio.
“Looking at the various different apps people have on their phones and the implications for them is a hugely important question and I’ve asked the National Cyber Security Centre to look into this.”
Pressed whether this means there could be a full ban on the app, he said: “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.”
Mr Trump’s ban, which faced a series of legal challenges and never came into force, was revoked by his successor in the White House, Joe Biden.
It’s important we know who owns the news sources that are feeding into our phones
Mr Tugendhat, who is seen as a hawk on China within the Conservative Party, noted the Indian government’s ban on many Chinese-owned apps.
On Sky News, he said: “What certainly is clear is for many young people TikTok is now a news source and, just as it’s quite right we know who owns the news sources in the UK… it’s important we know who owns the news sources that are feeding into our phones.”
TikTok has long argued that it does not share data with China but Chinese intelligence legislation requires firms to assist the Communist Party when requested. Critics fear the policy could expose Western data to Beijing.
In a statement, TikTok said: “While we await details of any specific concerns the UK Government may have, we would be disappointed by such a move.
Similar decisions elsewhere have been based on misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics, but we remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns
Similar decisions elsewhere have been based on misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics, 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, which includes storing UK user data in our European data centres and tightening data access controls, including third-party independent oversight of our approach.”
Parliament’s TikTok account was shut down last year after MPs raised concerns about the firm’s links to China.
Downing Street declined to comment further, but could also not rule out any TikTok ban.
A spokesman said: “The NCSC regularly provides security briefings and guidance to Government departments and ministers to defend against the latest threats.”
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