France bans ‘recreational’ use of TikTok, Twitter, Instagram

France joins a growing list of states that say TikTok lacks sufficient levels of cybersecurity and data protection.

TikTok application logo
[Ritchie Tongo/EPA]

France has banned the “recreational” use of TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and other apps on government employees’ phones because of concerns about insufficient data security measures.

The ban is to come into force immediately, the Ministry of Public Sector Transformation and the Civil Service wrote on Twitter on Friday.

“In order to guarantee the cybersecurity of our administrations and civil servants, the government has decided to ban recreational applications such as TikTok on the professional phones of civil servants,” Stanislas Guerini said on Friday.

He added that for several weeks, several of France’s European and international partners have adopted measures to restrict or ban the downloading and installation of or the use of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok by their administrations.

Guerini said recreational applications do not have sufficient levels of cybersecurity and data protection in order to be deployed on administrations’ equipment, adding that exemptions can be given for professional reasons, such as institutional communication of an administration.

Widening ban

A string of governments and institutions have banned TikTok in recent weeks, including the White House, the UK parliament, the Dutch and Belgian administrations, the New Zealand parliament, and the governments of Canada, India, Pakistan, Taiwan and Jordan.

Concerns regarding alleged security risks posed by TikTok have most prominently been raised by US lawmakers and national security officials who say that user data gathered by the app could be accessed by the Chinese government.

Calls to ban TikTok from government devices gained momentum after FBI Director Christopher Wray said in November it poses national security risks.

Late last month, the European Union’s two biggest policy-making institutions – the Commission and the Council – banned TikTok from staff phones for cybersecurity reasons.

Concerns have mounted globally about the potential for the Chinese government to access users’ location and contact data through ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.

The company’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, pushed back on assertions that TikTok or ByteDance are tools of the Chinese government during questioning by US lawmakers on Thursday. The company has been reiterating that 60 percent of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors.

A law China implemented in 2017 requires companies to give the government any personal data relevant to the country’s national security. There’s no evidence that TikTok has turned over such data, but fears abound due to the vast amount of user data it collects.

Beijing has accused Washington of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok.

Earlier this month, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the US has yet to present evidence that TikTok threatens its national security and was using the excuse of data security to abuse its power to suppress foreign companies.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies