Technology

BBC staffers urged to take down the TikTok app after its ban on government devices

The BBC has urged staff to remove TikTok from company phones days after ministers and officials were banned from using the Chinese social media app on government-issued phones.

A guide sent to staff at the national broadcaster on Sunday said: “We do not recommend installing TikTok on a BBC company device unless there is a legitimate business reason. If you don’t need TikTok for business reasons, TikTok should be deleted.”

Staff are still allowed to use the app for editorial and marketing purposes on their work phones, although BBC bosses said they will issue further guidance if the situation calls for it.

“The decision is based on concerns raised by government agencies around the world regarding privacy and security.”

The move reflects a sharp turn in the BBC’s stance on using TikTok as a way to reach new audiences online since last year.

Earlier this month, Denmark’s DR became the first national broadcaster to ban TikTok from employees’ work devices. Employees there are only allowed to use designated TikTok phones if they need the app for research.

On Friday, the UK government banned the app on government-issued phones amid fears the Chinese government could access sensitive data stored on official phones.

Oliver Dowden, the Cabinet Secretary, told the BBC Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg the ban was “taking into account the risks”.

Dowden discusses tech security on BBC Sunday morning (PA)

Dowden discusses tech security on BBC Sunday morning (PA)

‚ÄúThere is a high risk on government phones. Then, in terms of TikTok, there’s another risk,” he said, adding, “A lot of these social media apps are sucking up massive amounts of data…whether that’s geolocation, contacts, all those things that you have on your phone.”

Despite concerns, the public should be able to safely use TikTok due to the strength of UK privacy laws, according to Science Secretary Michelle Donelan.

In response to Britain’s move, TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, said it was “disappointed” with the decision, saying bans are based on “fundamental misunderstandings and are driven by broader geopolitics”.

The UK has cautiously turned away from Chinese technology in recent years after the welcoming approach of the 2010s.

In 2020, Boris Johnson’s government began phasing out Chinese tech giant Huawei’s stake in Britain’s 5G network, citing security concerns. The United States previously restricted Huawei’s access to US technology.

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