European Commission bans staff from using TikTok

Move comes as western governments express security concerns over use of Chinese-owned app

The European Commission will ban its staff from using TikTok, as western governments express safety and security concerns over the growing use of the Chinese-owned social media app.

On Thursday, staff at the EU’s executive body were told to uninstall the TikTok app from all corporate and personal devices that use commission apps as soon as possible.

Staff have been told that from March 15th, apps such as Skype for Business or the commission’s internal email would no longer be available on devices that continue to use TikTok.

The measure “aims to protect Commission data and systems from potential cybersecurity threats”, according to a staff email seen by the Financial Times.


The commission confirmed the move later on Thursday, saying it had “required all colleagues with the app installed on corporate devices and personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device service to uninstall the app”.

The ban underlines fears among western governments that the viral social media platform, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, could be used to gather data on their citizens and share information with the Chinese government. It follows similar crackdowns on the use of the app among government staff in the UK and US.

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TikTok said it was “disappointed with the decision, which we believe to be misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions”, and that it was in contact with the commission “to set the record straight” on how it protects data. The company has long maintained it would not allow the Chinese government to access user data.

The European move comes after the US Senate passed a bill barring federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices in December, while US states, including Maryland, Texas and Iowa, have also barred its use on government devices.

ByteDance is brokering a deal with the US government to prevent a ban of the short-form video app, which could involve selling off part of TikTok to a US company or allowing third parties in the US to oversee its internal systems.

In December, the company apologised after revealing its staff in the US and China had inappropriately obtained the data of users in order to analyse their location as part of an internal leaks investigation.

In August last year, the UK parliament closed its TikTok account just a week after it launched, after senior politicians raised concerns that the Chinese government used the app as spyware.

The video-sharing platform has surged in popularity in recent years in Europe and the US, cutting into the advertising businesses of rivals such as Meta and Twitter. Last week, TikTok said it had 125mn monthly active users in the EU.

The size of the app’s user base means it will be classified as a very large online platform that faces special obligations under the EU’s new Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. The new law aims to curb the power of Big Tech and clarify rules on how social media giants should police content on their platforms.

News of the ban was first reported by Politico. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023