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European Commission bans TikTok from staff work devices

February 23, 2023

The EU's executive arm has announced a similar move to one in the US, where the Chinese-owned app was banned on government devices at the state and federal levels.

Tiktok logo
All European Commission employees were asked to uninstall TikTok from their corporate devices, as well as the personal devices using corporate appsImage: Omar Marques/SIOA/Zuma/dpa/picture alliance

The European Commission's IT service has asked all employees of the EU executive to uninstall Chinese-owned TikTok from their corporate devices, as well as the personal devices using corporate apps, citing data protection concerns.

Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton told reporters he had spoken to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew about data privacy concerns about the video-sharing app.

"We are extremely active...to make sure we are protecting our colleagues," he said.

Officials received the request via email on Thursday morning, as reported initially by EURACTIV.

"To protect the Commission's data and increase its cybersecurity, the EC (European Commission) Corporate Management Board has decided to suspend the TikTok application on corporate devices and personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device services," said the email.

Staffers were asked to do so as soon as possible and no later than 15 March. 

Following the move by the European Commission, the EU Council also said it would prohibit TikTok on staff phones, an EU official told Reuters news agency.    

TikTok responded by saying that a decision by the European Commission to ban the video-sharing app on its staff's official devices was based on mistaken ideas about its platform.

"We are disappointed with this decision, which we believe to be misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions," a spokesperson for the Chinese-owned company said.

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TikTok under scrutiny

TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, is already facing calls for a ban in the US over its links with Beijing, and is now under fierce scrutiny in the European Union.

The bloc's top officials recently accused the platform of failing to deal with problems related to data, copyright and access to harmful content.

Last November, TikTok admitted that the personal data of users worldwide could be accessed in the Chinese headquarters.  It was later forced to confirm that ByteDance staff had accessed TikTok data to track journalists in a bid to identify a source of leaks to the media.

The company denies the Chinese government has any control or access. 

TikTok has recently been banned on government devices in the United States at the state and federal levels, and some lawmakers want to ban the platform entirely.

A European Commission spokesman, however, said no US pressure was involved in the decision to ask its employees to remove TikTok from their corporate phones.

DW Chief Technology Correspondent Janosch Delcker said "we don't know" the the exact relationship between TikTok and Beijing, but the ban today clearly shows that European officials have security concerns.   

Germany's Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber demanded on Wednesday that the federal government stop operating its Facebook page. Kelber justified his decision on doubts about the page fulfilling all data protection requirements.

dh/rt (AFP, Reuters)