The European Commission has banned Chinese short video-sharing app TikTok from its employees’ corporate phones for cybersecurity reasons, EU industry chief Thierry Breton said today (February 23), the first EU institution to do so.
Owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, Tiktok is under scrutiny from governments and regulators because of concerns that China’s government could use its app to harvest users’ data or advance its interests.
Breton, who announced the move at a news conference in Brussels, declined say whether the Commission had been subject to any incidents involving TikTok.
DISAPPOINTED AND SURPRISED
Responding to the announcement, Tiktok said it was disappointed and surprised that the Commission had not reached out before instituting the ban.
The US Senate last December passed a bill to bar federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices. TikTok is banned in India.
The EU executive said in a statement that the decision would apply both to work and personal phones and devices.
“To increase its cybersecurity, the Commission’s Corporate Management Board has decided to suspend the use of the TikTok application on its corporate devices and on personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device service,” the Commission said in a statement.
“This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyber-attacks against the corporate environment of the Commission,” it said.
NO EXPLANATION OFFERED TO TIKTOK
A spokesperson for TikTok said it had not been contacted directly by the Commission, nor offered any explanation for its decision.
“We believe this suspension is misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions. We have contacted the Commission to set the record straight and explain how we protect the data of the 125 million people across the EU who come to TikTok every month,” the spokesperson said.
The European Parliament said it was aware of the Commission’s action and that it was in contact with it.
“Relevant services are also monitoring and assessing all possible data breaches related to the app and will consider the European Commission evaluation before formulating recommendations to European Parliament authorities,” a spokesperson said.
The Commission said security developments at other social media platforms will also be kept under constant review.