Shaw Ji Chu, chief executive officer of TikTok Inc., speaks during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

Brian van der Beek | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has banned its staff from using TikTok on their smartphones amid concerns from Western governments about the risks the platform could pose to national security.

The commission said employees will no longer be able to install the Chinese-owned app on corporate and personal devices, citing concerns about how it handles user data.

“This measure is intended to protect the Commission from cyber security threats and actions that could be used to cyberattack the Commission’s corporate environment,” the Commission said in a statement released Thursday.

“The security developments of other social media platforms will also be continuously monitored,” the statement added.

The move underscores the more aggressive tone Europe has taken recently toward TikTok, which has long evaded regulatory scrutiny in the bloc. Lawmakers in the US voted to block the app in December, and some are calling for a nationwide ban on the service.

Western officials are concerned about the Chinese government’s potential influence over TikTok — particularly the risk it could allow Beijing to spy on citizens. TikTok has acknowledged that employees based in China can access data about its European users, but has denied ever sharing such information with the Chinese government.

Last month, European Commissioner Thierry Breton warned that the app could face a possible ban if it failed to comply with the Digital Services Act, which this summer imposed tougher requirements on TikTok, Twitter and a number of other platforms to remove illegal content. curbing misinformation, and better protect minors.

“The European Commission’s suspension of TikTok on enterprise devices is wrong and based on fundamental misconceptions,” Caroline Greer, TikTok’s head of public policy, said on Twitter. “We asked for a meeting to straighten things out.”

“We continue to improve our approach to data security — we are building three data centers in Europe to store user data locally; further reduction of employee access to data; and minimizing data flows outside of Europe.”

When it comes to social media, advertising and e-commerce, TikTok is not yet a giant on the scale of companies like Meta, Alphabet and Amazon. But its growth in the region cannot be underestimated. According to a company statement last week, the platform has 150 million users in Europe.

TikTok, which employs 5,000 people in Europe, has sought to allay regulatory concerns by outlining plans to move European users’ information to a data center being developed in Ireland. Last week, the firm announced the opening of its third data center in the country.

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