The European Commission has banned staff members from having the Chinese social media app TikTok on their work phones, as well as on personal devices with work-related apps, over data safety concerns.
The Commission's IT service sent out the request to uninstall the app as soon as possible and no later than 15 March via email to EU officials on Thursday morning, Euractiv reports.
"To protect the Commission’s data and increase its cybersecurity, the [European Commission] Corporate Management Board has decided to suspend the TikTok application on corporate devices and personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device services," read the email, seen by the news outlet.
At the Commission's press conference on Thursday, its chief spokesperson declined to reply to repeated questions as to why the Commission had decided to ban the use of TikTok on its devices at this timing. "We don't make public the reasons," he said, hinting to cybersecurity concerns.
For those who do not comply by the 15 March deadline, work-related apps like the Commission email and Skype for Business will no longer be available. The measure was implemented on the grounds of data protection concerns related to TikTok and should protect Commission data and systems from potential cybersecurity threats.
The other EU institutions, including the Council and the Parliament, are expected to also implement a ban on the app. For the Parliament, in particular, however, it may take longer to be able to implement such a policy.
The Commission's measure is "misguided," a TikTok spokesperson told Politico in a reaction. "We are disappointed with this decision, which we believe to be 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."
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Recently, the app has also been banned on government devices in the United States at the state and federal levels. In the EU, the Netherlands advised civil servants to delete the app as well, but has not issued an official ban.
Recently, many governments in Western countries are increasingly alarmed by evidence that Chinese technology companies assist the Communist Party and its intelligence services in gathering data from all over the world and focusing on high-up political and security assets.