The European Parliament on Tuesday banned the use of social media app TikTok on staff devices and recommended that MEPs delete it from their phones.
Following in the footsteps of the European Commission and Council of the EU, Parliament President Roberta Metsola and Secretary-General Alessandro Chiocchetti have told about 8,000 officials they should uninstall TikTok from corporate devices such as mobiles and tablets by March 20.
It is also “strongly recommended” that MEPs and their staff and accredited assistants remove TikTok from their personal devices, according to the note. The popular video-sharing app is owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance and has become the focus of mounting security and data protection fears.
“Cybersecurity concerns have been raised on the usage of the social media platform TikTok, in particular regarding data protection and collection of data by third parties,” reads the Parliament’s email, sent out to staffers on Tuesday.
“I think it is logical and important that the Parliament joins the other European institutions on this,” said Dita Charanzová, the vice president in charge of cybersecurity.
There is no active official European Parliament account on TikTok, although one account with the handle @europarl posted a video about the institution in late 2019. A spokesperson did not reply to questions about whether this was an official account. Some of the political groups, such as the center-right European People’s Party and The Left, maintain a presence on the platform.
Pedro López, the spokesperson of the EPP group, said the group had no plans to remove its TikTok account, which has 50,000 followers — far larger than the next-highest group, The Left, which has around 6,000.
“We will not erase our account on TikTok,” López said, adding that they had not received any official news of the decision yet.
“I think it is absurd to abandon the highest-growing social network in Europe, even if the Chinese are using it for spying,” the EPP spokesperson said.
He added that the Parliament should launch an official TikTok account because it is a useful tool to fight fake news and that the institution was instructed to do so a few months ago by the so-called bureau, the group of vice presidents chaired by President Metsola.
The Commission was the first EU institution to take such a measure, but it ruffled the feathers of other EU bodies, including the Parliament, by going it alone.
A spokesperson for Parliament Vice President Marc Angel said he regretted “that the [European Commission] made a unilateral decision on banning TikTok. As it concerns cybersecurity, he would have preferred a coordinated decision by the institution.”
This article has been updated.