Published On: Thu, Mar 14th, 2024

No.10 says it’s monitoring TikTok national security threat after US ban | Politics | News

Downing Street has warned that Britain’s top security boffins are monitoring any potential national security threat from social media app TikTok, after the US passed a landmark bill that could lead to its ban in months.

This week the House of Representatives passed a new law giving the Beijing-based owners of TikTok, ByteDance, six months to sell the social media site or face it being blocked from US users’ phones.

While TikTok boss Shou Zi Chou has insisted that data on the social media platform is “free from outside manipulation”, many China hawks worry that the hit app could be used by the Chinese Communist Party for nefarious means.

Following Joe Biden saying he will sign the US anti-TikTok Bill into law, pressure is mounting on Britain to follow suit.

The Government banned the app from civil servants’ and ministers’ phones in March last year, however still allow the public to download it.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman has now said that while using the app remains a “personal choice’ for Brits, security chiefs will be keeping “all these issues under review”.

However Mr Sunak’s spokesman warned a US-style ban is not off the cards.

He told reporters: “Obviously it’s a matter for the US lawmakers in terms of the Bill today. For our part, ensuring the security of UK data is a priority for the government.

“Our experts will continue to monitor threats to our data and we will not hesitate to take action if necessary to protect our national security.”

Yesterday a Tory peer Lord Bethell backed the United States’ ban, warning: “The lack of transparency and respect for normal business practices have led to questions about surveillance, influence and harmful algorithms. As a society, it’s time to address these concerns and prioritise our national security and safety of our children.”

When the Government banned TikTok from official phones last year, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the ban didn’t go far enough.

He said the UK “can’t stop there”, adding: “The reality is that even though government phones will have this taken out of them… the key thing here is that private telephones remain on their desks. Private phones are used for communications.

“I honestly don’t believe… that these phones will never be used for government business. They will be, they are, and there’s no way of stopping that to some degree.

“So can he not now say any government minister or senior official that has their private phone with TikTok should remove it because that gets rid of the risk.”

FBI director Christopher Wray previously told a US Senate Committee that the app “screams” of a national security concern.

He warned that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control the data of millions of US users.

A spokesman for TikTok said: “With Project Clover, we’re investing £10 billion in industry-leading data safeguards for our UK and European users, including independent oversight of our data security from UK cybersecurity firm NCC Group”.

TikTok’s parent company Bytedance is around 60% owned by global institutional investors, such as Blackrock and General Atlantic, 20% owned by employees around the world, including 7000 Americans, and 20% owned by the founder. In Europe, TikTok is incorporated in the UK.

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