The European Commission, the executive power of the European Union (EU), has banned its staff from using TikTok over security fears.
The move comes amid growing safety and security concerns among lawmakers in Europe and the U.S. over TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company, ByteDance.
On Thursday, staff at the EU’s executive body were told to uninstall the TikTok app from phones and corporate devices that use official European Commission apps as soon as possible. The ban also means that staff cannot use TikTok on personal devices that have official apps installed.
The ban will apply to the European commission’s 32,000 permanent and contract employees. Staff must remove the app as soon as possible and no later than March 15.
For those who do not comply by the set deadline, official apps such as the European Commission email and Skype for Business will no longer be available to them.
This is the first time the European Commission has banned the use of an app for its staff. In a statement, EU spokesperson Sonya Gospodinova says that the decision was made for security reasons.
“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,” Gospodinova explains.
“The security developments of other social media platforms will also be kept under constant review.”
TikTok has been plagued by allegations that it harvests users’ data and hands it to the Chinese government.
In a statement to Politico, TikTok says the ban is unwarranted and that the app operates no differently from other social media platforms.
“We are disappointed with this decision, which we believe to be misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions,” a TikTok spokesperson says.
“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.”
International scrutiny of TikTok, which has one billion users and is the sixth most-used social media platform in the world, has increased in recent months — with bans mounting against the app.
In December, the U.S., where TikTok has faced continued pressure, banned the app for all federal government devices due to fears about potential spying by China.
Earlier this month, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) issued a written demand to the CEOs of Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their company’s app stores due to the possibility that China’s government could “weaponize” the app against the U.S.
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