The European Commission has banned TikTok from official devices because of concerns about cybersecurity, a move sharply criticized by the company in its latest run-in with Western governments over how it handles user data.
Commission staff have until March 15 to delete the short-form video app, owned by China’s ByteDance, from work devices and any personal devices that use Commission apps and services.
Based in Brussels, the European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union, responsible for proposing and enforcing legislation and implementing the EU budget. It employs around 32,000 permanent and contract workers.
“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 Thursday.
European Commission spokesperson Sonya Gospodinova told reporters that the ban was “temporary” and “under constant review and possible reassessment.”
A second spokesperson, Eric Mamer, added: “But we’re not going to say here what is necessary or not in order for the suspension to be lifted.”
The measure piles further pressure on TikTok, already banned from US federal government devices and from official devices in some US states due to fears that the app’s user data could wind up in the hands of the Chinese government.
Previously, TikTok has disclosed to European users that China-based employees may access EU users’ data.
But on Thursday the company pushed back against the ban, calling it “misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions.”
In a statement shared with CNN, a spokesperson said TikTok had contacted the Commission to “set the record straight and explain 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,” the spokesperson added.
The company has previously said it is working on a program to safeguard US user data in response to policymakers’ concerns.
In August, the Financial Times reported that the UK parliament had shut down its TikTok account just one week after it was launched after lawmakers raised concerns that Beijing uses the app as spyware.
— Eve Brennan contributed reporting.