The goal is to "protect the data" of the institution. The European Commission on Thursday banned the use of TikTok on the work devices of its staff. The other EU bodies should also adopt this measure. The temporary "suspension" of the popular video-sharing service "aims to protect the Commission from cyber threats (...) It is our duty to react as soon as possible to potential cyber alerts," the EU executive said in a statement.
Commission officials and employees have until 15 March at the latest to uninstall the application from their professional devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.), said a spokesman for the institution. They will also need to remove TikTok from their personal devices if they contain apps validated for business use (email, video conferencing apps).
Surveillance of Westerners
Similar measures will be taken by the European Council, the body of member states, said its spokesman. The European Parliament, for its part, has indicated that its services will examine the Commission's opinion before making recommendations. The Commission's ban comes as TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, is under increasing Western scrutiny due to fears that Beijing could access user data around the world.
Brussels is thus following Washington's lead. In the United States, a law signed into law by President Joe Biden in early January bans the downloading and use of TikTok on the devices of US federal government officials. Twenty U.S. states have taken a similar step for their own employees. Some lawmakers in Congress are trying to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. altogether, accusing it of being a tool for spying and propaganda in the service of China, amid tensions between Beijing and Washington.
A "misguided" suspension for TikTok
In the European Union, ByteDance is under investigation by the Irish Privacy Authority. It suspects him of violating European data protection law (GDPR) regarding the processing of children's personal data and data transfers to China. TikTok acknowledged in November that some employees in China could access European user data. The company also admitted a month later that employees had used the data to track down journalists. But the group vehemently denies any Chinese government control or access to its data.
"The Commission has, from the beginning of its mandate, focused on cybersecurity, the protection of its employees and all those who work" for the institution, Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton told reporters on Thursday. Without giving details: "We are under no obligation to give the reasons why we make [such] decisions," he insisted.
For TikTok, "this suspension is misguided and based on fundamentally flawed conceptions. We are surprised that the Commission did not contact us directly, nor did it give us the opportunity to explain ourselves," the company said in a statement. "We requested a meeting to set the record straight and explain how we protect the data of 125 million users across Europe," the platform added.
- European Commission
- European Union (EU)