TikTok Can Only Be Used on a “Need-To Basis” for S’pore Government Issued Devices


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Last Updated on 2023-03-20 , 10:25 am

Concerns regarding the security of TikTok have been prevalent since the app’s rise.

With the recent ban of the app from government devices in numerous countries, it seemed that Singapore would follow suit.

However, it has been announced that the app will not be banned from government devices.

However, public officers are only allowed to use the app on government-issued devices on a “need-to basis”.

At least there won’t be cases of mindless scrolling at work.

TikTok Usage Allowed on a “Need-To Basis”

On 16 March, a spokesperson for the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) clarified, “Government-issued devices are meant for work and there are clear rules stipulating that only approved apps should be downloaded on such devices.”


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The spokesperson added, “Currently, TikTok is only allowed for use by public officers on a need-to basis, such as for communications officers.”

SNDGG consists of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and the Government Technology Agency.

It is responsible for overseeing the government’s digital transformation and Singapore’s Smart Nation projects.

SNDGG told CNA that government-issued devices have security measures to safeguard data.


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Furthermore, public officers are regularly reminded to download approved apps only. 

Besides TikTok, other approved apps under the same policy include Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Concerns Over TikTok

This isn’t the first time TikTok has come under scrutiny.

In 2020, the app was called out by then-US president Donald Trump as a threat to national security.

He even attempted to block new user downloads.

Like other social media apps, TikTok collects a lot of user data.

You know, your birthday, email addresses and phone numbers.

It also tracks your likes, shares and search history.

That’s why you keep getting the same type of videos tailored to your tastes. 

The United States, Canada, Belgium and Britain recently banned the app from government devices.


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If you didn’t already know, TikTok’s parent company is ByteDance, a Chinese company.

The concerns about the app are primarily due to fear that the Chinese government may exploit such vast amounts of data. 

Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Assistant Professor Roy Lee told CNA, “While TikTok has repeatedly stated that it does not share user data with the Chinese government and would not do so if asked, it is important to consider that ByteDance is legally compelled to comply with requests for user data under Chinese law, and it is unclear how ByteDance would resist such requests.”

There is rising concern that TikTok will eventually become a propaganda machine used to influence user opinions.

However, according to CNA, other studies show that other social media platforms pose similar risks to TikTok.

The Big Hoo-Ha

Concerns over TikTok continuously rise and fall.


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What brought on the most recent wave of security concerns?

For one, the rivalry between China and the West is a reason.

Early in February, a “spy balloon” was seen floating across the skies of the USA.

It was seen flying over Montana, the home base of one of the USA’s nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

No wonder the US was so concerned.


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When the US finally shot down the “spy balloon”, China was not happy.

In fact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry regarded the USA’s actions as an “overreaction”.

The ongoing Russian-Ukraine war does not help the tensions between the East and the West.

The accumulation of such tensions is probably why Western countries are choosing to ban TikTok from government devices.

Singapore Government Officials’ TikTok Accounts

Meanwhile, in Singapore, quite a number of government officials have TikTok accounts.

For instance, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong has 71.3k followers on his TikTok account.

He uploads videos pretty regularly.

His most recent upload was a week ago in honour of International Women’s Day.


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@lawrencewongst Celebrating the amazing achievements of women this #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2023 #WomenEmpowerment ♬ original sound – Jaden 🧛🏼‍♂️

Using a trending sound, the video depicts many women in sunglasses before panning to Lawrence Wong, who thanks women for their contributions.

The creation of his account came after saying that the PAP has to work harder to appeal to young voters. 

He’s even had a few viral videos, like one where he’s seen playing the guitar on Christmas Day.

@lawrencewongst Wishing all a Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Hope you like this collab🎄#christmas2022 ♬ original sound – Lawrence Wong

Another video that went viral captured a summary of Budget 2023, accompanied by a series of swaggy transitions.

@lawrencewongst #SGBudget2023 ♬ Let him cook – Sweepers🧹

Other ministers who use TikTok include Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.

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TikTok’s Response

TikTok told CNA that there are “a lot of misconceptions” regarding the app’s relationship with China.

For one, ByteDance “is not Chinese owned”.

A spokesperson for TikTok clarified that nearly 60% of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors, where founders hold a 20% stake.

Employees own the other 20% of the company.

The spokesperson added, “The Chinese Communist Party has neither direct nor indirect control of ByteDance or TikTok.”

The app has been taking action to ease concerns over security threats caused by TikTok. 

TikTok’s chief executive Shou Zi Chew is set to appear before the US congress soon.

Furthermore, the company has revealed that it is working with a third-party European security company to monitor how it handles data from European users.

Bloomberg also recently reported that TikTok is considering separating from ByteDance as “a last resort” to address concerns about US national security. 

Asst Prof Lee pointed out that banning government devices from TikTok may be ineffective.

After all, users can still access the app with their personal devices.

He noted that banning the app entirely from government devices could be seen as a political act rather than a security measure.

At the end of the day, it’s crucial that users remain vigilant.