The European Commission on Thursday banned the video sharing app TikTok from official devices over cybersecurity concerns.
The European Commission, which is the executive arm of the 27-nation European Union and operates as a cabinet government, told its 32,000 or so staffers they have until March 15 to delete TikTok from their government devices, as well as any personal devices on which they use Commission apps and services.
“This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyberattacks against the corporate environment of the Commission,” the Commission said in a statement Thursday.
Previously, TikTok disclosed to European users that China-based employees may access EU users’ data. However, the company pushed back on Thursday, calling the European Commission’s ban “misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions.”
Last week TikTok said it was planning two more Europe-based data centers purportedly to alleviate concerns from authorities in both Europe and the U.S. about its users’ data privacy.
More than two dozen U.S. states have banned TikTok on government employees’ devices and laptops, and in December, language was included in Congress’ bipartisan omnibus spending bill to ban the app from federal government devices. Further, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have called for a nationwide ban on TikTok for all Americans.
The U.S. actions follow warnings from FBI Director Chris Wray, who said in November that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control data collection on millions of American users, or to control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.
Last month the EU’s digital policy chief, Thierry Breton, warned TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to comply with strict new rules for social media platforms that are set to take effect among the 27 member nations later this year.
And in August, the Financial Times reported that Parliament in the UK—which is not part of the EU—had shut down its TikTok account just one week after it was launched amid lawmakers’ concerns about China using the app as spyware.
“We’re continuing to enhance our approach to data security, a TikTok spokesperson told CNN in the wake of the European Commission’s ban, adding that measures to that end would include the additional European data centers to store user data locally; further reducing employee access to data; and minimizing data flows outside of Europe.
According to reports, TikTok has more than 1 billion monthly active users in more than 150 countries worldwide as of the last quarter of 2022, including a reported 135 million users in the U.S., the majority of whom are 18-24 years old.
TikTok reported Friday that it had 125 million monthly active users within the EU’s 27 member countries and a total of 150 million users in Europe when non-EU countries such as Britain and Switzerland are added to the tally.