European Commission bans TikTok from work mobiles citing ‘cybersecurity concerns’

TikTok is a short video-sharing app   (AFP via Getty Images)
TikTok is a short video-sharing app (AFP via Getty Images)

The European Commission has banned TikTok from staff phones over cybersecurity fears

EU industry chief Thierry Breton announced the ban on employee corporate devices on Thursday.

The EU Council will also ban the video sharing app on phones, an EU official announced later .

However TikTok said the suspension was “misguided” and based on “fundamental misconceptions”.

Owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, video-sharing app Tiktok is under scrutiny from governments and regulators because of concerns that China’s government could use its app to harvest users’ data or advance its interests.

Mr Breton, who announced the move at a news conference in Brussels, declined to say whether the Commission had been subject to any incidents involving TikTok.

European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton (REUTERS)
European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton (REUTERS)

In response Tiktok said it was disappointed and surprised that the Commission had not reached out before imposing the ban.

In 2022 the US Senate in December passed a bill to bar federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices. TikTok is also banned in India.

The EU executive said in a statement that the decision would apply both to work and personal phones and devices.

“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,” the Commission said in a statement.

“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,” it said.

A spokesperson for TikTok said it had not been contacted directly by the Commission, nor offered any explanation for its decision.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

The European Parliament said it was aware of the Commission’s action and that it was in contact with it.

“Relevant services are also monitoring and assessing all possible data breaches related to the app and will consider the European Commission evaluation before formulating recommendations to European Parliament authorities,” a spokesperson said.

The ban comes just weeks after a senior Tory MP urged Britons to delete the TikTok app from their mobile phones.

Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, told Sky News that users should “without question” get rid of the app as she suggested the video-sharing platform is linked to China’s efforts to build a “tech totalitarian state”.

Her comments were made after the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

In December, TikTok executive Liz Kanter insisted the platform has not been asked for UK user data by the Chinese government and would not provide it if it was.