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TikTok, the video-sharing app that has become an obsession among young people around the world, is facing growing scrutiny and mistrust in both Europe and America. Now, European Commission staff have been instructed to delete the app from their work devices.
The EU executive branch has issued the ban due to security concerns. This directive follows similar restrictions in the United States.
Due to growing concerns regarding TikTok and its parent company ByteDance, the European Commission has banned the Chinese short video-sharing app from staff work devices.
On Thursday morning, the EU executive staff were informed that all official devices would be prohibited from installing TikTok after March 15, while a similar ban had been put into place for personal ones. According to Politico, this ban is being implemented in an effort to boost cybersecurity.
TikTok's security vulnerabilities have long caused Western alarm. Recently, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA.) expressed his concerns that TikTok could be used to track U.S. users' locations, collect personal data and create profiles on Americans for Chinese authorities.
Furthermore, he wrote that the app's recommendation algorithm could be utilized to manipulate videos and promote others. Furthermore, he suggested that collecting user data through this app could be utilized for propaganda purposes - potentially aiding China in its attempts to shape global opinion in their favor.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) also expressed concerns about TikTok. He warned that the app could potentially collect information about American users' habits such as their location and internet browsing habits, even their private messages.
Additionally, he highlighted TikTok's parent company ByteDance's close ties to the Chinese government - something lawmakers are deeply concerned about. Under Chinese national security laws, both foreign and domestic firms must share data upon request from government authorities.
Though TikTok's access to user data is relatively limited compared to other apps, the app does collect some personal information like IP addresses, emails and phone numbers. It also approximates users' locations but does not track them through websites outside the app unless they give consent for tracking purposes.
In addition to security concerns, Washington policymakers worry that TikTok's popularity could offer China an avenue for political influence over Americans. This has sparked multiple congressional investigations and calls for a national ban. Some legislators have even introduced bills mandating that the director of national intelligence brief Congress on TikTok's potential national security risks.
TikTok is a social media platform that specializes in short video sharing. Users can create, upload and share clips of themselves performing dances or other entertainment. The app has grown rapidly over time with more than 100 million users - mostly among millennials - enjoying its services.
TikTok has seen unprecedented growth over the last several years, but has recently become a political lightning rod due to its relationship with China's government and data privacy worries. ByteDance - its parent company - has come under intense scrutiny in the US for allegedly giving Chinese intelligence agencies access to user data as well as mishandling content, copyright violations and harmful content access.
State governments across the country have either banned TikTok for public sector workers or are discussing taking similar actions. Some of these measures include disallowing employees from using the app on their work devices and instructing staff to delete any work-related applications installed on their personal phones.
Politico reports that the European Commission's IT service issued an email on Thursday morning asking all staff to uninstall the app from both corporate devices and personal ones if they had any.
"To protect Commission data and enhance cybersecurity, the European Commission Corporate Management Board has decided to suspend TikTok on corporate devices and personal devices enrolled in Commission mobile device services," according to an email sent out by the commission.
"As of 15 March," the email informs, "devices with the app installed will be considered non-compliant with the corporate environment."
This decision is the latest development in a long-running debate over whether TikTok should be held accountable for its practices, particularly if the Chinese company has connections to Beijing's government. Last November, when they revealed on-the-record that some of their Chinese employees would have remote access to European user data, there was growing alarm across both America and Europe.
TikTok is a mobile app that enables users to create short videos and share them with their friends. The service also provides filters, stickers and music so users can customize their content according to their preferences. Plus, TikTok's algorithm recommends other content based on your preferences.
This success has made ByteDance an increasingly popular entertainment option among young people around the globe, raising some concerns about its potential impact on children's privacy. Based in China, its parent company has been subject to numerous investigations by government agencies both here and abroad.
In November, US lawmakers expressed doubts about the company's data policies and linked it to China's intelligence services. As a result, the government banned the app from all federal government devices in December, with several states following suit this week. Shou Zi Chew, the app's CEO, is set to appear before Congress on March 23 regarding potential risks to American national security.
TikTok has become a platform that offers consumers the platform to express themselves freely, but brands may find it challenging to establish an audience on the platform due to its majority female user base and majority under 24 age demographic. As such, brands may struggle to gain traction on this platform.
Therefore, marketers must comprehend what's taking place on the platform and how it could potentially impact their business. This includes determining which demographics are using the app, what they're doing there and why they're engaging with it.
As a brand, it's essential to consider which form of advertising best engages TikTok users. Most likely, purchasing ads will be necessary in order to capture their attention as these users tend to purchase more products from your business than other customers.
TikTok boasts an expansive user base, meaning there is a vast pool of potential customers who can be reached through its app.
According to Politico, the European Commission has banned TikTok from their staff work devices due to growing concerns over its data access in China. As a result, all employees must delete TikTok from both personal phones and work-related devices.
On January 22nd, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton warned TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew that their app could be banned from Europe if it fails to adhere to new digital content regulations. At their meeting on January 22nd, Breton made clear that TikTok would come under "special scrutiny" in September when the bloc's new Digital Services Act goes into effect.
TikTok has made a commitment to hold US users' data in the US, but Washington still worries that China could tamper with its recommendations algorithms and other features. That has prompted the company to create an in-house team devoted solely to US data security, according to Vox reporter Christian Paz.
TikTok continues to gain ground among younger audiences, despite these efforts. Two-thirds of teens use the app and many consider it a reliable source for news, entertainment and political information, according to Pew Research Center.
These anxieties have sparked a wave of opposition from state governments to forbid public employees from using the app on official devices. In just two weeks, at least seven states have taken action: Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
The moves against video-sharing apps are part of an ongoing debate over how social media platforms manage user data. There's concern that the information collected by these applications could be used to target users with ads and content most likely to appeal to them.
Many lawmakers and regulators are vocally against TikTok and ByteDance, the company behind it. That firm is owned by Beijing, whose authorities have a long history of using technology to spy on foreign citizens.
The EU's recent pushback against TikTok is part of a wider shift in their attitude toward technology. After years of neglecting this matter, they are now placing more responsibility on tech companies and institutions to safeguard users' privacy and data - potentially signalling their readiness to take on the tech world itself.