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What just happened? It's not just the US where organizations and the government have banned staff from using TikTok; workers at the European Commission are now prohibited from interacting with the popular short-form video app and have been ordered to remove it from their devices. The move was prompted by fears of data harvesting and potential cyberattacks stemming from Chinese owner ByteDance, which has faced repeated claims of collusion with the Chinese government.
The European Commission, the EU's politically independent executive arm responsible for drawing up proposals for new European legislation, has implemented the TikTok ban on work-issued devices and employees' personal devices if they have work-related apps installed.
"The measure aims to protect the commission against cybersecurity threats and actions, which may be exploited for cyberattacks against the corporate environment of the commission," said Sonya Gospodinova, a commission spokeswoman.
Employees have up until March 15 to remove TikTok from their devices. The Commission did add, however, that the ban is temporary and could be reassessed in the future, according to The New York Times. The organization refused to say if a specific incident led to the new rule being introduced.
Reuters reports that that staff at the EU Council, which brings together representatives of the member states to set policy priorities, must also uninstall TikTok from their phones.
We are continuing to enhance our approach to data security - establishing three data centres in Europe to store user data locally; further reducing employee access to data; and minimising data flows outside of Europe.— Caroline Greer (@CarolineGreer) February 23, 2023
TikTok has for years come under scrutiny for its data-collection practices and ByteDance's alleged ties with the Chinese government. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman called it "spyware" and "fundamentally parasitic" in 2020. Trump tried to ban the app completely when he was in office, and more recently, the FCC commissioner called on Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their stores. Senators have called for a total ban, and the FBI director said the app is China's best espionage tool. Not surprisingly, TikTok was banned from US federal government devices last year.
TikTok has long denied sharing user data with Chinese officials. Regarding the Commission's ban, a company spokesperson said, "We believe this suspension is misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions. 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."
Like all social media companies, TikTok is also dealing with the EU's new digital regulations relating to illegal and harmful content as well as tightened data privacy rules.
Masthead: Solen Feyissa