Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre is reviewing whether Chinese-owned video app TikTok should be banned from government phones, security minister Tom Tugendhat said on Tuesday.
TikTok has come under increasing focus over fears that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.
The United States, Canada, Belgium and the European Commission are among those that have already banned the app, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd, from government devices.
“Understanding exactly what the challenges that these apps pose and what they are asking for and how they’re reaching into our lives is incredibly important,” Tugendhat told Sky News when asked if he would like to see TikTok banned from British government phones.
“That’s why I’ve asked the National Cyber Security Centre to look into this. I haven’t yet had an answer. So I’m not going to give you that answer yet. I can’t.”
In a separate interview with Times Radio, he said: “We need to make sure that our phones are not spyware, but useful tools for us.”
TikTok said it would be disappointed by such a ban.
“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,” a TikTok spokesperson said, adding that it had begun taking steps to further protect European user data.
Last week, the White House backed legislation to give the administration new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats.
Britain on Monday cast China as representing an “epoch-defining challenge” to the world order in an update to its blueprint for security and international policy.
Asked during a trip to the United States on Monday if the government was considering a ban on TikTok, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told ITV: “We look at what our allies are doing.”
“We want to make sure that we protect the integrity and security of sensitive information. And we will always do that and take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that happens,” he added.
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