British Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said Tuesday he had asked the country's National Cyber Security Center to investigate and report back to him on potential threats to national security posed by the popular video-sharing app TikTok. File photo by Alex Plavevski/EPA-EFE
March 14 (UPI) -- Britain may follow the United States, European Union and Canada in banning TikTok from government phones, according to the country's security minister who is looking at possible security risks posed by the Chinese-owned app.
Minister of State for Security Tom Tugendhat said Tuesday that he had asked the National Cyber Security Center to look into TikTok saying it was "absolutely essential" to keep Britain's "diplomatic processes free and safe".
"We need to make sure our phones are not spyware. Understanding exactly what the challenges that these apps pose, what they are asking for and how they're reaching into our lives is incredibly important," he said.
"What certainly clear is that, for many young people, TikTok is now a news source. And just as is quite right that we know who owns the news sources in the U.K. ... it's important that we know who owns news sources that are feeding into our phones."
Tugendhat, an army veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, did not rule out banning it on government phones, but said he wanted to wait for the conclusions of the NCSC.
Parliament has already closed its own TikTok account after MPs raised concerns about security last year.
Tuesday's announcement came one day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Britain would look at the bans the United States, EU and Canada had implemented for government phones.
TikTok is facing intense scrutiny from Western governments over security and data privacy worries amid fears the app could be used to collect and pass on user data to Beijing or promote a pro-China agenda.
The company denies allegations that it transfers data to the Chinese government and insists it operates no differently than other social media platforms.
The EU Commission and more than half of U.S. states have already introduced a ban over concerns around potential cyber-attacks.
In a Feb. 27 memo, the White House's Office of Management and Budget gave federal agencies 30 days to delete TikTok from staff and contractors' work devices.
The U.S. Senate passed legislation in December banning TikTok from government-issued devices. The No TikTok on Government Devices Act by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., was passed by unanimous consent, sending it on to the House for approval.
President Joe Biden signed it into law Dec. 29 as part of the federal government's fiscal 2023 spending bill.
Last month, the European Commission ordered its 32,000 staff to remove the TikTok app from devices as soon as possible and no later than March 15.
A 2020 attempt by President Donald Trump to introduce an outright ban was later blocked in the courts.