TIKTOK is “as much of a threat” to the UK’s security as Huawei because of fears the app could be spying on users, senior Tories have warned.
Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said the app is too close to “Chinese intelligence services”.
Mr Duncan Smith told The Times: “There are real, serious concerns, as big as with Huawei, over the role that (intelligence agencies) play.”
TikTok is incorporated in the US – but is owned by Chinese corporation ByteDance which is accused of having close ties to the country’s communist Government.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “TikTok is the product of a company called ByteDance which has roots everywhere at the moment, a bit like Huawei. They’re growing like mad. Everybody is now reviewing the company.”
Relations between China and the UK have deteriorated even further after the Government banned the state-owned telecoms giant Huawei from Britain’s 5G network.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is preparing to strike down even harder on China today by scrapping the UK’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong after new national security laws were brought in.
TikTok, the viral app with 1.5billion users allows people to share short videos and is used by millions of British teenagers, has been accused of censoring topics sensitive to Chinese authorities such as the Tiananmen Square massacre.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he is considering a ban on the app over security fears.
It’s already been banned in India after tensions heightened with China over clashes on the border of the two Asian nations.
Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat back up Sir Iain’s concerns urging the UK to tread carefully with TikTok.
He said: “Democratic nations need to be more aware of the partners they’re working with and the reputations they have in their own countries.
“Companies like ByteDance raise serious questions about who they’re willing to work with and what that co-operation will enable.”
Tory MP for the Isle of Wight Bob Seeley said the app threw up “very significant political and data privacy issues”.
He said: “I would certainly have a look at it and if other countries are doing the same thing we need to be careful about it.”
But head of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for TikTok, Theo Bertram told the BBC the app was not controlled by the Chinese state.
He said: “The suggestion that we are in any way under the thumb of the Chinese Government is completely and utterly false,” he told the BBC.”
He addded the app would “definitely say no to any request for data” from the Chinese Government.
A spokesperson for TikTok said: “There’s a lot of misinformation about TikTok out there, but the fact is that millions of British users come to TikTok for entertainment, inspiration, and connection.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO and the UK is one of our most important markets globally, with hundreds of employees, a senior leadership team and core business functions based out of our London office.
“We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users.
“TikTok UK user data is stored in the US and Singapore and we have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.
“There is zero truth to these accusations and we remain fully committed to investing in the UK and continuing to inspire creativity and bring joy to our users here.”