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European Commission Staff Orders To Remove TikTok From Employees’ Devices

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The European Commission has instructed its staff to delete the TikTok app from their mobile phones and corporate devices to “protect data and increase cybersecurity”, the Commission stated. 

TikTok, a short-video application owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has been accused of feeding on users’ data and sending it to the Chinese government. 

TikTok claims its operation is similar to other social media platforms.

The corporate management board of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has taken this decision for security purposes, EU spokeswoman Sonya Gospodinova. The ban also indicates that staff at the European Commission are not allowed to install or use TikTok on personal devices that have official apps installed. 

She said, “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.”

The commission said its staff comprises 32,000 permanent and contract employees, who are ordered to remove the app from their devices immediately and no later than March 15. For those who do not follow the instruction directed by the allotted deadline, the corporate apps such as the commission email and Skype for Business, will no longer be accessible.

TikTok said the commission’s decision is the result of a misunderstood idea regarding the platform. 

A spokesperson said, “We are disappointed with this decision which we believe to be misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions.”

In 2022, TikTok agreed that some staff in China can access the data of European users. In recent months, its parent company ByteDance was subjected to Western scrutiny over concerns about the amount of access Beijing has to user data.

Last year, the US government also banned TikTok on federal government-issued devices for national security reasons. The US believes the Chinese may use TikTok to siege those devices and US user data.

The Dutch government, last month, urged public officials to avoid using the app for the same reasons. 

In the UK, MP Alicia Kearns, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, advised users to delete TikTok during an interview with Sky News, a television news channel.

According to analytics firm Sensor Tower Data, TikTok was the first non-Meta app that rapidly grew to have three billion downloads across the world.

In January, Shou Zi Chew, the social media service’s chief executive, was in Brussels to attend the talks with EU officials where they warned TikTok regarding the safety of the European users’ data, adding that it will be difficult to regain their trust. 

He stated that the company was developing a “robust” system for processing European data in Europe, an EU spokesperson said at the time.

TikTok has also assured to hold US users’ data in the United States to relieve Washington of their security concerns.

An EU source told the national broadcaster of the UK, BBC, the Council of the European Union is in the process of executing the same measures implemented by the Commission. Although the European Parliament has noted the Commission’s statement, TikTok is not among the standard configuration for cooperating devices.

The source said, “The Parliament is constantly monitoring cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyber-attacks against its corporate environment.”

Czech MEP Marketa Gregorova said she was “very glad” with the decision the Commission landed on and condemned the “hostility” of the Chinese government.

She said, “I also hope that this will open a general discussion about cybersecurity within our institutions and how much the individual levels differ across Commission, Parliament and Council.”

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