The European Union’s diplomatic service is banning its staff from using the Chinese-owned social media application TikTok on work phones and private phones with work-related apps installed, it said Friday.
The External Action Service (EEAS) “is aligning its policy to the decision by the Commission for reasons related to cybersecurity. All EEAS staff and the EU delegations are being informed to take the appropriate steps in due time,” a spokeswoman for the service said.
The European Commission and EU Council on Thursday told staff to stop using the app on official devices and delete it from personal phones that have work-related apps. The restrictions will officially kick in on March 15.
The EU institutions are the latest government services in Europe to block the app, which is facing a whirlwind of security and privacy concerns across the West because of its Chinese ownership (TikTok is owned by Beijing-headquartered internet company ByteDance), its algorithms and revelations that it has tracked specific journalists on its platform.
The EEAS runs the bloc’s foreign policy and oversees EU delegations and representative offices across the world.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton, who announced a ban by the European Commission, declined to say whether the Commission had been subject to any incidents involving TikTok.
An official also said on Thursday that staff at the EU Council, which brings together representatives of the member states to set policy priorities, would also have to un-install TikTok from their personal phones with access to EU Council services.
The U.S. Senate in December passed a bill to bar federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices. TikTok is banned in India.
The EU executive Commission said in a statement that the decision would apply 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,” it 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 added.
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 Commission said security developments at other social media platforms would also be kept under constant review.
Via Reuters/ POLITICO