Why is the European Parliament banning the social media app TikTok on employee phones?

The European Parliament has reportedly decided to ban the short video-sharing app TikTok from all government agency phones, as well as some personal devices. It is the third European Union institution to implement such a ban, after other nations and US states.

Security concerns have been cited as the reason, as the institutions are asking employees to take down the app, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. Beijing and the apps’ parent company say those worries are unfounded.

Where is TikTok banned?

The latest ban in the European Union on Tuesday applies not only to parliamentary staff’s phones, but also to personal devices on which government e-mail and other network access are installed. Canada announced its own TikTok ban on Monday after the European Commission and EU Council implemented their own restrictions.

This follows similar moves in other countries like Taiwan and the United States in December. The White House said Monday all government agencies have 30 days to ensure the Chinese app is removed from any federal device or system they use.

Congress passed legislation in December to ban TikTok from government devices, but the House of Representatives is taking on new legislation on Tuesday that would go further. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on a series of China-related bills. One of these would remove long-standing protections from sanctions against companies that transfer “informational materials” to or from a foreign country, which TikTok has successfully applied to their digital content in court in the past.

India, for its part, has completely banned the short video sharing app along with 58 other Chinese-made apps since June 2020. A few months later, another 118 mobile apps were banned. The Department of Electronics and Information Technology said the apps “impair the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of India, the security of the state and public order”.

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Why are governments banning TikTok?

TikTok creator ByteDance has come under increased scrutiny from governments and regulators over concerns about its proximity to the Beijing government. There are fears that the Chinese government could gain access to the company’s database and collect user data to spy on Western nations and potentially use the app to further China’s interests. The Chinese government has regularly denied having such intentions.