Today, the UK Government has made the decision to ban the popular application TikTok, following privacy and security concerns. This news comes as the United States and other EU countries previously made the decision to ban the use of TikTok in Government.
Speaking in parliament today, Oliver Dowden MP, said that “there could be a risk around how sensitive Government data is accessed and used by certain platform”. He highlighted that applications on Government devices across some departments already have to be pre-approved but from today TikTok would no longer be considered an approved 3rd party application across all of Government, including devolved administrations and therefore can no longer be used on any Government device. Oliver Dowden, went one step further and said not only will TikTok no longer be an approved 3rd party application but it is also banned on Government devices. He also went on to say that the move was ‘precautionary’ and that they are aware of limited TikTok use on Government devices. One interesting statement that came from Oliver Dowden was the fact that they would put in place specific, limited exemptions that would allow certain Government devices to still have TikTok for “operational reasons”.
Oliver Dowden pointed out that the TikTok ban will not be extended to the personal devices of Government personnel or the public but stressed that everyone should practice cyber hygiene a ensure that everyone checks how their data will be used before using applications like TikTok.
What are some of the privacy concerns associated with the use of TikTok?
Since TikTok launched in 2016, it has been subject to many privacy concerns, mainly because the app is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Governments around the world have been concerned about the way that TikTok uses user data and how that data could be used by the Chinese Government. Some of the main privacy concerns are:
- Data collection: TikTok collects a significant amount of data from its users, including their location, browsing history, and device information. This data is used to personalize the user experience and to target ads, but it has raised concerns about the app’s data privacy practices.
- Data sharing with third parties: TikTok has been criticized for sharing user data with third-party companies, including those based in China. This has raised concerns about the Chinese government’s access to user data and its potential use for surveillance purposes.
- Data security: TikTok has been criticized for its data security practices, with concerns raised about the app’s vulnerability to hacking and cyber attacks. In 2020, security researchers discovered several vulnerabilities in the app that could potentially be exploited by hackers to gain access to user data.
- Content moderation: TikTok has been criticized for its content moderation practices, with concerns raised about its ability to filter out harmful and inappropriate content. There have been reports of cyberbullying and harassment on the app, as well as concerns about the spread of misinformation and propaganda.
- Young users: TikTok has a significant user base of young people, including children and teenagers. This has raised concerns about the app’s ability to protect young users from inappropriate content and online predators.
- Information collected: TikTok collects information that users provide when they create an account, such as their name, email address, phone number, and profile picture. The app also collects information about users’ devices, including their IP address, device type, and operating system.
- Use of information: TikTok uses the information it collects to provide and improve the app’s features, personalize content, and show users ads. The app also uses the information to conduct research and analysis to improve its services.
- Sharing of information: TikTok may share user information with third-party service providers that help the app operate, as well as with business partners and advertisers. The app may also share information with law enforcement if necessary.
- Data retention: TikTok retains user data for as long as necessary to provide its services, comply with legal obligations, resolve disputes, and enforce its policies.
- Security: TikTok takes measures to protect user data, such as using encryption and limiting access to user information.