Major EU bodies, citing security, ban TikTok on employees’ phones

  • The first EU institutions to ban TikTok
  • The European Parliament monitors potential data breaches
  • TikTok says the ban is misleading, and cites basic misconceptions

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s two largest policy-making institutions have banned TikTok from employees’ phones on cybersecurity grounds, indicating growing concerns about the Chinese short video-sharing app and its users’ data.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is under scrutiny from governments and regulators over concerns that the Chinese government could use its app to collect user data or advance its interests.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton, who announced a ban by the European Commission, declined to say if the commission had any incidents related to TikTok.

An official also said Thursday that staff at the Council of the European Union, which brings together representatives of member states to set policy priorities, will also have to uninstall TikTok from their personal phones with access to EU Council services.

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In response to the announcement, Tiktok said it was disappointed and surprised that the commission had not reached out before the ban was imposed.

In December, the US Senate passed a bill to prevent federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices. TikTok is banned in India.

The executive European Commission said in a statement that the decision would apply to phones and devices for work and personal.

“To increase cybersecurity, the authority’s company board of directors decided to suspend the use of the TikTok application on company devices and on personal devices registered with the authority’s mobile device service,” it said in a statement.

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She added, “This measure aims to protect the Commission from cybersecurity threats and procedures that may be exploited in electronic attacks against the environment of companies affiliated with the Commission.”

A TikTok spokesperson said it was not contacted directly by the committee, and offered no explanation for its decision.

“We believe this comment is misleading and based on fundamental misconceptions. We have contacted the Commission to set things right and explain how we protect the data of the 125 million people across the European Union who come to TikTok every month,” the spokesperson said.

The European Parliament said it was aware of the Commission’s work and was in contact with it.

“The relevant services also monitor and assess all potential data breaches related to the app and will consider the European Commission’s assessment before formulating recommendations to the European Parliament authorities,” a spokesperson said.

The commission said security developments on other social media platforms would be kept under constant review.

Fu Yun Che’s report. Editing by Allison Williams, Emilia Sithole-Matress, Raisa Kasuluski, and Barbara Lewis

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