The European Commission on Thursday February 22, banned TikTok on official devices over spying fears but the Chinese social media giant branded the move as ‘misguided’.
TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, has faced increasing Western scrutiny over fears about how much access Beijing has to user data.
The new ban also means European Commission staff cannot use the video-sharing app on personal devices including phones that have official EU communication apps installed – as the EU seeks to bolster its cybersecurity.
Employees must remove the app as soon as possible and should do so by March 15.
EU spokeswoman Sonya Gospodinova said the corporate management board of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, had made the decision for security reasons.
‘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,’ she said.
There was no immediate comment on whether other EU institutions such as the European Council, which represents member states, or the European Parliament would take similar measures.
After the news was made public, EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton pointed to the cybersecurity risks he said had informed the decision.
‘As an institution, the European Commission has, from the beginning of the mandate, a very strong focus on cybersecurity, protecting our colleagues and, of course, everyone who is working here in the Commission,’ Breton told reporters.
A spokesperson for TikTok said it was ‘disappointed with this decision, which we believe to be misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions’.
In November, TikTok admitted some staff in China can access the data of European users.
The company however denies that the Chinese government has any control or access.
TikTok on Thursday stressed it protects the data of 125 million users monthly in the European Union on its app and was taking steps to strengthen data security.