The United Kingdom announced a security ban on the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on government devices on Thursday, following the lead of the European Union and the United States.
“We will do so with immediate effect,” Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told parliament.
Western authorities have been increasingly tough on the app, which is controlled by the firm Bytedance, expressing concerns that user data could be used or abused by Chinese officials.
Dowden stated that specialists had assessed the risk of third-party apps in respect to sensitive government data.
Government devices will only be able to access apps on a pre-approved list as part of the measures.
The restriction will only apply to “government corporate devices” used by ministers and ministries, not to personal devices or to the general public.
“This is a proportionate move,” said Dowden, urging users to exercise “caution” before downloading apps.
ByteDance has always maintained that company does not store or share data in China.
According to US officials, if TikTok separates from ByteDance, it will avoid a broader national ban.
On Thursday, Beijing’s foreign ministry urged Washington to stop “unreasonably repressing” TikTok, which boasts over a billion global users.
“The US has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens US national security,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters.
The UK this week unveiled preparations to confront what it said was the “epoch-defining challenge” faced by China, in an update to its defence and foreign policy.
Since leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom has sought new markets and influence in Asia, in part to oppose China.
One of its plans is to strengthen security agencies in order to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure.
The UK has previously enraged Beijing by prohibiting Huawei from participating in the country’s 5G network rollout.
It has also prevented Chinese takeovers of UK technology firms and barred China General Nuclear from building a new power station.
When he ran unsuccessfully for Prime Minister in July, Rishi Sunak promised to be strong on China, calling the Asian behemoth the “number one threat” to local and global security.
He said that China was “taking our technologies and infiltrating our colleges” at the time.
Sunak, who replaced Johnson’s successor Liz Truss in Downing Street, has emphasized the importance of maintaining engagement with China.