The European Commission has ordered its staff to remove the popular social media app TikTok from their corporate devices and personal phones over cybersecurity concerns. The commission, which has around 32,000 permanent and contract employees, said the move was aimed at protecting data and increasing cybersecurity in the face of potential cyberattacks.
TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has faced allegations that it harvests users’ data and hands it to the Chinese government. TikTok has denied these allegations and insists that it operates no differently from other social media platforms.
The ban also means that European Commission staff cannot use TikTok on personal devices that have official apps installed. Those who do not comply with the directive will no longer have access to corporate apps such as commission email and Skype for Business.
TikTok has been subject to growing Western scrutiny over fears about how much access Beijing has to user data. Last year, TikTok admitted that some staff in China could access the data of European users. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has faced increasing Western scrutiny in recent months over fears about how much access Beijing has to user data.
The US government banned TikTok last year on federal government-issued devices due to national security concerns, and the US fears the Chinese government may leverage TikTok to access those devices and US user data. In the UK, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, MP Alicia Kearns, recently urged users to delete the app in an interview with Sky News.
TikTok has grown rapidly and was the first non-Meta app to reach three billion downloads worldwide, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower Data. However, the European Commission’s decision could signal growing concern among policymakers about TikTok’s security and data protection practices.
The European Commission’s decision comes amid a wider debate about how to balance the economic benefits of increased digital connectivity with the need to ensure cybersecurity and protect user data. Many policymakers are grappling with how to address these issues, and the European Commission’s move could prompt other governments and organizations to take similar steps to safeguard their data.
The European Commission’s decision to ban TikTok from its corporate and personal devices is a significant move that highlights the growing concern among policymakers about the security and data protection practices of social media platforms. While TikTok denies allegations that it harvests user data and hands it to the Chinese government, the ban suggests that policymakers are taking a cautious approach to balancing the economic benefits of increased digital connectivity with the need to protect user data and ensure cybersecurity.