The European Union’s executive branch said Thursday it has temporarily banned TikTok on phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure, reflecting growing concerns from Western officials about Chinese video sharing app.
For the first time for the European Commission, its corporate governance board has suspended the use of TikTok on devices issued to employees or on personal devices that employees use for work.
TikTok is under increased scrutiny from Europe and the US over data security and privacy amid concerns that the hugely popular app could be used to promote pro-Beijing views or collect user information. This is happening as China and the West are engaged in a wider tug-of-war over technologies ranging from spy balloons to computer chips.
The EU’s move follows similar moves in the US, where more than half of the states and Congress have banned TikTok from official government devices.
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“The reason why this decision was made is … to improve the cybersecurity of the commission,” Sonya Gospodinova, a spokeswoman for the commission, said at a briefing in Brussels. “Furthermore, this measure aims to protect the commission from cybersecurity threats and activities that could be used to cyber-attack the commission’s corporate environment.”
Caroline Greer, TikTok’s spokesperson for public policy in Brussels, tweeted that the suspension “is misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions.”
“We requested a meeting to clarify,” she said. adding that TikTok, which has 125 million users in 27 European Union countries, “continues to improve” its approach to data security. This includes opening three European data centers and minimizing data sent outside of the continent.
Commission officials declined to say whether a specific incident caused the suspension or what is needed to lift it.
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EU officials said employees would have to remove TikTok from devices they use for work by March 15, but did not provide any details on how this would apply to people using personal phones for work.
In Norway, which is not a member of the 27 EU countries, the justice minister was forced to apologize this month for failing to reveal that she had installed TikTok on her public phone.
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TikTok also came under pressure from EU to comply with upcoming new digital regulations to ensure that large online platforms clean up toxic and illegal content, as well as the block’s strict data protection regulations.