The world’s oldest national broadcaster, the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation, has told staff they shouldn’t keep the TikTok app on a BBC corporate device unless there is a “justified business reason.”
A Reg reader inside the Beeb told us yesterday’s edition of internal staff newsletter Ariel contained some new rules for journalists in the org “based on concerns raised by government authorities worldwide regarding data privacy and security.”
It did not clarify whether the corporation’s bosses had been briefed specifically about security threat by UK spy bosses and the like or had developed the rule because of last week’s ban of the Chinese social media platform on UK.gov devices.
The UK government is the latest to ban ministers and officials from using TikTok among on their work devices as a “precautionary” measure over worries the app is used to snoop on Brits. Yes, this is despite the apparent, er, successes such as former digital secretary Nadine Dorries’ toe-curlingly cringe-y TikTok rap on the subejct of the Online Safety Bill. Mic drop indeed.
Our source pointed out that although the BBC is “obviously not an arm” of the UK government “(despite what some may claim on social media)”, it does try to adhere closely to NCSC security best practice. NCSC is the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, the cyber unit of the country’s signals intelligence operations GCHQ.
The source added: “At the same time, as a major global media organisation, [the BBC] has more reason than most government-adjacent organisations to have a presence on TikTok.”
The national broadcaster told staffers in the in-house mag that while they could do what they liked with their personal phones “based on your individual circumstances and data considerations,” if the device is a BBC corporate device “and you do not need TikTok for business reasons,” they must delete TikTok promptly.
Those unsure of how to remove the app were asked to contact the Beeb’s longsuffering technical support and service desk.
BBC staff with TikTok on their personal phones that they also use for BBC work purposes (holy BYOD policy, Batman) are also told to contact the security tech team, presumably to be given a massive bollocking so someone can “talk to you regarding your individual circumstances and the type of BBC information that you are working with.” For the user, that’s a brand new smartphone or tablet, for IT, that’s a brand new headache.
The Beeb’s security tech desk will also have to take a look at staffers’ work phones and tablets that are running TikTok on the same device as “sensitive BBC information.”
Some “editorial and marketing” types are going to need TikTok, the org admits. Those folks need to speak to IT to “arrange access to an appropriate corporate mobile device.” Something appropriately firewalled, we imagine.
The weekend “soft-ban” comes days after a report submitted to Australia’s Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media claimed ByteDance, the Chinese developer of TikTok, “can no longer be accurately described as a private enterprise” and is instead intertwined with China’s government.
Meanwhile, the US has asked TikTok parent company ByteDance to sell its stake in TikTok or face a possible ban in the country.
A TikTok spokesperson told The Register it was “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.”
It added: “The BBC has a strong presence on our platform, with multiple accounts from news through to music reaching our engaged community both in the UK and around the world…. We remain in close dialogue with the BBC and are committed to working with them to address any concerns they have.”
It has always denied that it is beholden to China’s government, that it would share data with the Chinese government, and that it conducts surveillance via its app.
A BBC spokesperson told The Reg: “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 Beeb also added it wanted to make it clear you can still get your news on TikTok – but added it would continue to monitor and assess the situation.
Did you hear that, kids? You can still stay up to date with fun clips like these excruciatingly long forced portrait-mode TikTok news shots of newsreaders staring down at their notes. Edgy. ®