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BBC cracks down on TikTok after review

The BBC is asking staff not to install TikTok on corporate-owned devices without a justified business purpose, although its use will still be allowed to share media content with its audiences

In the wake of a ban imposed on the use of social media platform TikTok on devices owned by the UK government last week, it has emerged that the BBC is among a growing number of organisations also imposing a crackdown on its use.

In internal email messages shared on Twitter, the corporation said it had conducted its own review of activity on TikTok and concluded that it could not recommend installing the app on a BBC corporate device without a “justified business reason”.

Computer Weekly understands that the use of TikTok on BBC corporate devices will still be permitted for editorial and marketing purposes. The platform has significant reach into the Gen Z demographic – those born roughly between 1996 and 2010 – so the corporation is keen to be able to continue to provide this audience with content, such as news, via TikTok.

A BBC spokesperson commented: “The BBC takes the safety and security of our systems, data and people incredibly seriously. We constantly review activity on third-party platforms – including TikTok – and will continue to do so.”

The BBC is now asking users to delete TikTok from BBC corporate mobile devices if they do not need it for business reasons, but in common with the government, is not imposing any restrictions on its use on personal devices, where it has advised staffers that they may decide whether or not they wish to discontinue using TikTok subject to their own circumstances and risk appetite.

Those who may be using TikTok on a personal device that they also use for work purposes are being told to get in touch with the BBC’s cyber security teams to discuss their circumstances.

According to the staff email, the BBC has taken this decision based on concerns raised by government authorities over the privacy and security of the data that TikTok gathers, given its origins in China, where its parent company Bytedance is still headquartered, although TikTok’s head office is in Singapore.

Many of these concerns relate to the possibility that the Chinese government may be able to access this data if it wants, something that TikTok continues to deny.

TikTok believes the bans currently being enacted on the platform are based on “fundamental misconceptions” and “driven by wider geopolitics”.

“We are disappointed with the guidance that the BBC has shared but welcome the fact TikTok can still be used as part of editorial, marketing and reporting purposes. The BBC has a strong presence on our platform, with multiple accounts from news to music reaching our engaged community both in the UK and around the world,” a spokesperson said.

“We remain in close dialogue with the BBC and are committed to working with them to address any concerns they have.”

TikTok has committed to working with governments to address concerns, and has also recently begun work on a new data security plan, dubbed Project Clover, which will see it create a dedicated “safe space” for data on European users, including the UK, and repatriate data on such users to European jurisdictions from Singapore and the US.

BlackBerry’s vice-president of threat research and intelligence, Ismael Valenzuela, said: “We are aware of many chief information security officers [CISOs] considering banning the use of TikTok on company devices.

“In particular, other organisations in highly regulated environments, such as the financial sector, are expected to conduct their own product security testing and legal review of privacy policy provisions to at least limit their use by corporate devices or high-value users. Without the right product security management tools, it will be difficult for some corporations to enforce these,” he said.

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