London: The EU Commission has banned staff from using the video-sharing app TikTok from official phones amid concerns the app harvests users’ data potentially for use by the Chinese government, prompting calls in the UK for Rishi Sunak’s government to keep up and follow suit.
Urged to act on TikTok: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.Credit:Getty
The move reflects an increasingly tougher stance taken by the Commission on China.
TikTok denies it works with Beijing even though its parent company, China’s ByteDance is obliged under Chinese security laws to comply with any request made of it by intelligence services.
Companies forced to comply with the law would also be forbidden from saying publicly that they had handed data over to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP.)
Last year, the company’s chief executive Shou Zi Chew conceded that staff in China were able to remotely access US user data.
In a statement, the Commission, which is the EU’s politically independent executive arm, said the measure was to boost its cybersecurity.
“This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyberattacks against the corporate environment of the Commission,” the Commission said in a statement.
Caroline Greer who leads TikTok’s Brussels team said she had demanded a meeting.
“The European Commission’s suspension of TikTok on corporate devices is misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions,” she said in a tweet.
“We have requested a meeting to set the record straight.”
TikTok is under a cloud for concerns about the privacy of its data.Credit:AP
Former Conservative party leader and British co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, Iain Duncan Smith said his government was lagging behind Europe.
“Even when their Western security operatives show that TikTok poses a security risk to us in the UK we seem to drag our feet, trying not to take action that might upset China,” he said.
“Our response and remedial action have been pretty weak and now we’re lagging behind with TikTok.
“The Prime Minister has an opportunity to take control of China policy and it’s a critical time to do so. I hope the government owns up to the danger China poses and takes action immediately on TikTok.”
Duncan Smith is one of a string of British and European MPs sanctioned by China. The sanctioning of British and European MPs prompted the Speaker of the House of Commons to last year order a Parlimentary TikTok account be closed.
One of Duncan Smith’s IPAC colleagues, the Lithuanian social democrat MP Dovile Sakaliene commended the EU Commission’s decision but said it was long overdue.
“The naivety of believing that there is any independent business in the PRC has too high a cost,” she said.
“In Lithuania we’ve had a survey on the safety of Chinese-made smartphones a few years ago and the results were very clear – five of the most popular devices were not safe to use due to in-built secret software that compromised the privacy and safety of users’ data.
“It’s uncomfortable to accept but the obligation to harvest users’ data and hand it straight to the Chinese government may be a sad reality of PRC-based IT and software companies.
“And this is no surprise, as CCP binds by law all businesses to collaborate if they want to survive.”
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