The UK’s security minister has said TikTok could be fully banned in the country, over security fears about the Chinese-owned app.
Tom Tugendhat said on Tuesday he is awaiting a review from the National Cyber Security Centre before deciding on the “hugely important question”, and that a full ban has not been ruled out.
Under pressure from some senior MPs, Rishi Sunak has hinted that Britain could follow the US and the EU by banning the social media app from Government phones and devices.
The Prime Minister said the UK will “look at what our allies are doing”, with Washington and the European Commission having banned TikTok on staff phones.
Tugendhat was asked if he would go further and order a fully-fledged ban on the app, like those ordered by India and former US president Donald Trump.
He told Times Radio: “I don’t have it, and the Prime Minister asked me to defend the leading democracy taskforce a little while ago, and as part of that we’re looking at the various threats to parliamentarians but also to journalists.
“Looking at the various different apps people have on their phones and the implications for them is a hugely important question and I’ve asked the National Cyber Security Centre to look into this.”
Pressed whether this means there could be a full ban on the app, he said: “It will be addressed with the challenges we face, with the threats we face. I’m not going to give you an answer until I know what the risks are.”
Trump’s ban, which faced a series of legal challenges and never came into force, was revoked by his successor in the White House, Joe Biden.
Tugendhat, who is seen as a hawk on China within the Conservative Party, noted the Indian government’s ban on many Chinese-owned apps.
On Sky News, he said: “What certainly is clear is for many young people TikTok is now a news source and, just as it’s quite right we know who owns the news sources in the UK… it’s important we know who owns the news sources that are feeding into our phones.”
TikTok has long argued that it does not share data with China but Chinese intelligence legislation requires firms to assist the Communist Party when requested.
Critics fear the policy could expose Western data to Beijing.
Parliament’s TikTok account was shut down last year after MPs raised concerns about the firm’s links to China.