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U.K. bans TikTok on government devices

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The United Kingdom banned TikTok from official government devices on Thursday, adding to similar restrictions imposed by allies in Canada, the European Union and the United States.

The social media app is not widely used by U.K. officials, according to a government announcement, but the measure reflects concerns about TikTok’s links to China through its parent company, ByteDance, and the possibility that the Chinese government could pressure the companies to hand over users’ personal information.

“This is a proportionate move based on a specific risk with government devices,” U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden told lawmakers Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, TikTok expressed disappointment at the decision.

“We believe these bans have been based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics, in which TikTok, and our millions of users in the U.K., play no part,” a spokesperson said. “We remain committed to working with the government to address any concerns but should be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.”

The company has said it is voluntarily working to address the security concerns by taking technical and bureaucratic measures to wall off U.S. and EU user data from its global operations. It has also said that it has not received any request from the Chinese government for user information and would resist such calls.

In the statement Thursday, TikTok said: “We have begun implementing a comprehensive plan to further protect our European user data, which includes storing U.K. user data in our European data centres and tightening data access controls, including third-party independent oversight of our approach.”

The U.K. announcement comes a day after TikTok said the U.S. government had requested the company’s Chinese owners sell their shares or else risk a ban.

In December, President Joe Biden signed legislation prohibiting TikTok on federal government devices, joining what has become a list of more than half of U.S. states.

U.S. lawmakers have proposed expanding the Biden administration’s authority to enact a nationwide ban on TikTok. A bipartisan group of senators this month unveiled legislation that would give the Commerce Department broad latitude to review and ban technologies linked to foreign adversaries, a proposal the White House quickly welcomed.

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