Expansion of campaign against China’s TikTok, as European Commission confirms suspension of app on corporate devices
The European Commission is following similar moves in the United States and is taking action against China’s ByteDance, and its popular short video-sharing app TikTok.
The European Commission on Thursday announced that in an effort to increase its cybersecurity, “the Commission’s Corporate Management Board has decided to suspend the use of the TikTok application on its corporate devices and on personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device service.”
It comes after Democrat Senator Michael Bennet earlier this month called for TikTok to be removed from the app stores run by Apple and Alphabet’s Google, because the short video social media app poses a risk to national security.
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew will reportedly testify before the US Congress in March, as American lawmakers prepare a bill that could ban the social media platform entirely from the United States on national security grounds.
US officials have previously said China’s government could force TikTok or parent ByteDance to hand over data on US users that could be used for intelligence or disinformation purposes.
Now the European Commission has said that it has taken the decision to suspend the use of TikTok on its corporate devices, “to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyber-attacks against the corporate environment of the Commission.”
It said the measure is in line with Commission strict internal cybersecurity policies for use of mobile devices for work-related communications.
“The Commission is committed to ensuring that its staff is well protected against increasing cyber threats and incidents,” it announced. “It is, therefore, our duty to respond as early as possible to potential cyber alerts.”
“Today’s suspension is an internal corporate decision which is strictly limited to the use of devices enrolled in its mobile service,” said the EC.
There was no confirmation at the time of writing whether there have been any incidents involving TikTok and the European Commission.
TikTok told Reuters it was disappointed with the Commission decision, saying it was “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,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The Commission also said security developments at other social media platforms will also be kept under constant review.
TikTok has already been banned on official federal government devices in the United States, and at least 32 of the 50 US states have also passed similar measures.
TikTok’s case was not helped, when ByteDance admitted that some staff members improperly accessed TikTok user data of two journalists.
Forbes in December also reported that ByteDance had tracked multiple Forbes journalists including some who formerly worked at BuzzFeed “as part of a covert surveillance campaign” aimed at discovering the source of leaks.
Last October TikTok had denied a Forbes report that it had ‘targetted’ US citizens, and insisted it did not collect precise GPS location data.
The UK Parliament has also closed down its TikTok account, after just one week of operation, over concerns of the platform’s ties to China.