UK security minister Tom Tugendhat has asked the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to look into TikTok amid concerns over potential security risks regarding the video-sharing app.
Earlier this month, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 24 to 16 to give President Joe Biden the power to enforce a national ban on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
The platform is used by over 100million people in the states but officials are concerned it, and other Chinese-owned apps, could pose a security risk to the country and its citizens. It is feared that sensitive personal data could be passed to the Chinese government.
Additionally, there are concerns that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could weaponise the app to spread misinformation, with the potential for it to influence political discourse and election results if it is successful at doing so.
If a full ban on TikTok were to be implemented, it would be the biggest restriction on a social media site in US history.
The app has also been banned from EU Commission phones over cyberattack fears. In turn, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK would “look at what our allies are doing” in terms of combating the issues.
Last summer, the UK’s parliament shut down its official TikTok account after MPs raised concerns about the company’s links to China (via Sky News).
Tugendhat has now confirmed that he has requested an investigation into the app. He told Sky News that it was “absolutely essential” to keep the UK’s “diplomatic processes free and safe”.
“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,” Tugendhat continued.
The Conservative MP did not rule out banning TikTok on government phones, but explained that he first wanted to wait for the findings from the NCSC. Tugendhat said he does not have the app “for many reasons – the main you can probably guess”.
He went on to say that other countries had taken “different approaches”, citing the Indian government’s TikTok ban. “The US government has taken different choices in terms of their government phones,” Tugendhat added.
“What [is] 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 UK… it’s important that we know who owns news sources that are feeding into our phones.”
TikTok has responded to the government bans, calling them “misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions”.
After legislation that could pass the US bill advanced, former tech minister Damian Collins claimed that TikTok’s “iron grip” could risk musicians losing out on royalty payments. “This suffocation of creative and commercial freedom must not be allowed to go any further – it must not be allowed to happen here in the UK,” the Tory MP said.