The European Union’s executive branch said it has temporarily banned TikTok from phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure, reflecting widening worries from western officials over the Chinese-owned video sharing app.
In a first for the European Commission, its Corporate Management Board suspended the use of TikTok on devices issued to staff or personal devices that staff use for work.
TikTok faces intensifying scrutiny from Europe and the US over security and data privacy amid worries that the hugely popular app could be used to promote pro-Beijing views or sweep up users’ information.
It comes as China and the West are locked in a wider tug of war over technology ranging from spy balloons to computer chips.
The EU’s action follows similar moves in the US, where more than half of the states and Congress have banned TikTok from official government devices.
“The reason why this decision has been taken is to … increase the commission’s cybersecurity,” commission spokesperson Sonya Gospodinova said at a press briefing in Brussels.
“Also, the 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.”
TikTok did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Commission spokespeople declined to say whether something specific triggered the suspension or what is needed to get it lifted.
Staff would be required to delete TikTok from private devices that they use for professional business by March 15, EU representatives said, but did not provide any details on how that would be enforced.
In Norway, which is not a member of the 27-nation EU, the justice minister was forced to apologise this month for failing to disclose that she had installed TikTok on her government-issued phone.
TikTok has also come under pressure from the EU to comply with upcoming new digital regulations aimed at getting big online platforms to clean up toxic and illegal content along with the bloc’s strict data privacy rules.
The company has said it plans to open two more European data centres to allay data privacy fears.