European Commission bans TikTok from employees' phones, citing cybersecurity threat

Employees will have to delete the app before March 15, the Commission said.

February 23, 2023, 3:53 PM

European Commission employees will have to remove TikTok from their work phones for security reasons, the European Union's executive body said Thursday.

The Commission said in a statement that all its employees will have to comply by March 15.

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," the statement said.

"The security developments of other social media platforms will also be kept under constant review," the statement added.

PHOTO: TikTok app displayed on a phone screen.
TikTok app displayed on a phone screen.
NurPhoto via Getty Images, FILE

The new rule will apply to work phones, but also employees' personal phones if they have an EU app on it, said Sonya Gospodinova, a spokesperson at the executive body.

The EU is more than ever forced to pay attention to "foreign interference" and potential data collection threats, Michel Maroy, an EU policy expert based in Brussels, told ABC News.

Maroy added, "European Union needs to reshape its geopolitical dimension and it does include new discussions and technical rules that are now becoming as important as sanctions for example."

TikTok in a statement called the Commission's decision "misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions."

The app, owned by the China-based company ByteDance, has faced growing scrutiny from officials in the U.S. and Europe over fears that user data could fall into the possession of the Chinese government.

With more than 125 million European users, none of the 27 EU members has so far imposed a full ban on the application. However, Dutch officials in January asked public authorities to stop using the app.

The European Commission declined to comment on whether any specific incident made them rush this decision.

"We do not know at what level Chinese intel could be involved and could use our 125 millions users' data. This is unclear. This is a protective action," Maroy said.

To build trust in Europe, TikTok announced last week that they will open two additional data centers on the continent.

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