British government ministers have been banned from using social media app TikTok on their work phones and devices on security grounds.
The government fears sensitive data held on official phones could be accessed by the Chinese government, BBC reported.
Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden said the ban was a precautionary move but would come into effect immediately. TikTok has strongly denied allegations that it hands users’ data to the Chinese government.
Mr Dowden said he would not advise the public against using TikTok, but they should always “consider each social media platform’s data policies before downloading and using them”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had been under pressure from senior MPs to follow the US and the European Union in barring the video-sharing app from official government devices.
But government departments – and individual ministers – have embraced TikTok as a way of getting their message out to younger people. Use of the app has exploded in recent years, with 3.5 billion downloads worldwide.
Its success comes from how easy it is to record short videos with music and fun filters, but also from its algorithm which is good at serving up videos which appeal to individual users.
It is able to do this because it gathers a lot of information on users – including their age, location, device and even their typing rhythms – while its cookies track their activity elsewhere on the internet.
US-based social media sites also do this but TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance has faced claims of being influenced by China.
The United States barred TikTok from official devices in December, and the European Commission followed suit last month. Canada, Belgium and India have taken similar action.
China has accused the US of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok amid reports the White House wants its Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the firm.