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European Commission bans staff from using TikTok on work devices

Workers may lose access to email and other services if they don't delete the app swiftly.

Eric Gaillard / reuters

The European Commission, the executive wing of the European Union, has banned TikTok from devices it owns. It also asked its staff to remove the app from personal phones and tablets that are part of its mobile device service — in other words, any devices they use for work.

“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,” the EC said in a statement. “The security developments of other social media platforms will also be kept under constant review.”

The EC has approximately 32,000 permanent and contract employees. It asked them to delete TikTok as soon as possible and by March 15th at the latest, according to the BBC. If the workers don't comply in time, they'll lose access to corporate apps, including the EC's email service and Skype for Business.

"We believe this suspension is misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions," a TikTok spokesperson told Engadget. "We are surprised that the Commission did not contact us directly nor offer any explanation — we have requested a meeting to set the record straight on how we protect the data of the 125 million people across the EU who come to TikTok every month. We're continuing to enhance our approach to data security, including by establishing three data centers in Europe to store user data locally; further reducing employee access to data; and minimizing data flows outside of Europe."

TikTok's parent company ByteDance is based in China. Officials in a number of countries have expressed concern over the Chinese government potentially using the app to access user data, as well as other security issues.

The US government has banned the app from most of the devices it owns. Officials in many states have enacted similar bans, while TikTok is prohibited on some college networks. There are also efforts to ban TikTok in the US entirely. In November, the EC said there were multiple ongoing investigations into TikTok's data practices.