EXPERTS have backed a ban on TikTok from Government phones saying it’s a “reasonable” step to protect national security.
The Chinese-owned app won’t be allowed on top phones handling sensitive information, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden confirmed on Thursday morning.
The risk to individual members of the public is small, according to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
While the app isn’t banned for everyday use, experts are still concerned Beijing might be manipulating what people see.
The app – owned by a company called ByteDance – has previously been accused of manipulating the algorithm so that kids in Europe and the US are pushed towards silly content while teens in China see more educational stuff.
“The individual risk to a random UK teenager is small,” said Lisa Forte, from the BCS’ Information Security specialist group.
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“The risk to the ordinary person lies not in the data harvesting – which is not unique to TikTok anyway – but more in the manipulation of the algorithm to young people in the UK see certain types of content.
“There are suggestions that in China the algorithm prioritises educational content whereas in Europe it prioritises dance videos and polarising material.”
As for data security, people in specific senior jobs should be concerned, experts say.
Lisa added: “The ByteDance policy of harvesting the data you put into the app (personal details, or metadata embedded in videos) is significant for groups of people entrusted with sensitive information on a professional basis.
“The people who should be concerned are politicians, government civil servants, CEOs of tech companies that generate lots of intellectual property (IP), or journalists.
“So it is right for the UK to look to limit or restrict certain groups having the app on their work phones, as other countries are doing.”
The ban comes after a string of other countries have done the same thing – including the EU and the US, over fears about the amount of data that they are getting about top officials.
TikTok owner ByteDance has long insisted that it does not keep data in China or share it with Beijing.
Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said: “CCDH researchers last year uncovered deeply concerning truths about the dangers posed to young and vulnerable TikTok users, who we found are bombarded every 39 seconds with content that can severely impact their mental health and lead to eating disorders or self harm.
“It is good that the Government has acted to protect our national security but it still hasn’t enacted its own Online Safety Bill that would protect citizens, our children and our information ecosystem from online dangers.”
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