In a move that reveals escalating tensions between the West and China, the European Commission has banned the usage of the Chinese social media app TikTok by its employees due to security concerns.
Authorities have until March 15 to remove the app from their devices. After that date, any device on which the app is still present will be regarded as not being compatible with the requirements of the professional context.
TikTok is also the subject of an investigation by the European data protection authority which has primary jurisdiction over the company’s operations in Ireland. This inquiry is being conducted in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union.
Reasons Behind the Decision to Ban Tiktok
The decision was made in the wake of accumulating evidence that Chinese technology companies are assisting the Communist Party of China and the country’s intelligence agencies in gathering large amounts of data all over the world, with a particular emphasis on high-value strategic and political targets.
“To protect the Commission’s data and increase its cybersecurity, the EC Corporate Management Board has decided to suspend the TikTok application on corporate devices and personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device service,” the email said.
Eric Mamer and Sonya Gospodinova, Commission spokespeople, said that the decision was the result of “careful” analysis. However, they decided not to provide the evidence that led them to the conclusion that the app posed major dangers to the EU executive in the areas of data security and cybersecurity. The restriction is temporary and under “constant review and possible reassessments.”
Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, lashed out at TikTok in December, calling it “deceptively innocent” and a source of “real addiction” among users, in addition to a conduit through which Russia spreads misinformation.
The European Commission has, for security concerns, banned staff from using #TikTok on official devices, a spokesperson said. Under the ban, staff are also not allowed to use the app on personal devices, including phones, that have official apps installed. pic.twitter.com/lVn8vyfvom
— Royalblog (@royalblogg) February 23, 2023
Moreover, the Dutch government has given instructions to its intelligence agencies to investigate whether or not the use of the app TikTok on government-issued smartphones presents a security threat.
America’s Ban on Tiktok
Concerns over the possibility of TikTok’s parent firm, ByteDance, engaging in illegal eavesdropping in China led to the United States government banning the use of the app across all federally-owned devices in December 2020.
Some states inside the United States have also adopted their own limitations, and on March 23, the CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, is scheduled to appear before the United States Congress about possible threats to national security.
Tiktok’s Reaction to this Decision
TikTok expressed disappointment with the decision, calling it “misguided” and based on fundamental misconceptions.
TikTok is used every month by 125 million people throughout the EU, according to a spokeswoman for the firm, who also said that the company has been in touch with the Commission to clear the air and explain how it safeguards the data of its users.
“We are surprised that the Commission did not contact us directly nor offer any explanation — we have requested a meeting,” TikTok said in a statement.
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