No more Tiktok: The governments in the USA and Canada are banning the Chinese social media app from company cell phones. The reason is security concerns.

In the US and Canada, government workers are being forced to delete the Chinese social media app Tiktok from their work devices over security concerns.

In the United States, government employees are given 30 days to ensure that the video app is no longer used on company cell phones and other devices, according to a requirement from the administration of US President Joe Biden.

The ban is already in place in Canada. Employees of the EU Commission and the Council of EU States should no longer use Tiktok on company cell phones from mid-March. On this Tuesday, the members of the European Parliament were also informed by email that Tiktok must be deleted from parliamentary devices by March 20, as a spokesman for the dpa confirmed.

With the German federal government, Tiktok is neither installed on company cell phones nor can it be downloaded. Only certain apps may and can be used on the service devices – in addition to government apps such as the Nina Warning app, there are also apps from private providers such as Twitter or Zoom, Signal and Instagram. WhatsApp is not installed on government phones.

criticism from China

Criticism of the ban in the USA came from Beijing. China accused the American government of suppressing foreign companies. State Department spokeswoman Mao Ning said Washington must “end the unjustified repression of relevant companies and create an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for businesses around the world.”

A Tiktok spokeswoman in Germany said of the EU Commission’s ban that the suspension was misguided and based on fundamental misunderstandings. “We are surprised that the Commission has neither contacted us directly nor offered an explanation.” A meeting was requested to clarify how Tiktok protects the data of the 125 million people in the EU who visit Tiktok every month.

The allegations that Tiktok data could be tapped by the Chinese government are not new. With the ban, the US government is implementing a law that was passed by Congress in December. At the end of the year, the US House of Representatives also issued a similar ban on MPs and their staff. Several states and the US military had previously issued similar regulations.

FBI director Christopher Wray said in early December that his agency had security concerns about the app. The Chinese government controls the algorithm that suggests content to users. “That gives them the ability to manipulate the content and, if they want, use it for influencer campaigns,” Wray said at a lecture at the University of Michigan. The Chinese government also has access to the cell phone software via the app. They can also steal user data and use it for espionage purposes.

Not just security concerns at TikTok

The ban comes amid rising tensions between Western governments and China, including over espionage allegations. At the end of January, a suspected Chinese spy balloon entered US airspace. The balloon was shot down by the US military a few days later after sweeping across much of the US and hovering over critical military infrastructure. The incident caused a stir not only in the United States and severely strained relations between the two countries. The balloon is part of a fleet of Chinese spy balloons deployed around the world, the US government claimed. China denies that.

Tiktok isn’t the only Chinese company that has security concerns. The Chinese manufacturer of communications technology Huawei is also seen by the US as a threat to national security. The big mobile operators must therefore avoid the group’s cheap technology. Concerns about data protection are also raised again and again with regard to other Chinese technology companies, such as drone manufacturer DJI.

The tone towards China is also becoming increasingly sharp among lawmakers in the USA. The House of Representatives, which has been dominated by Republicans since January, is considering legislation that would also ban the use of Tiktok among the general public. In the Senate, representatives from both parties have introduced a bill that would ban federal agencies from acquiring commercial Chinese drones.