The increasingly marginalized TikTok app. The Chinese application has been subjected to a boycott for several weeks by many Western institutions fearing risks related to cybersecurity. After the White House, the European Commission, the Canadian and British governments, the French government on Friday banned the downloading and use of the Chinese social network on the business phones of 2.5 million civil servants. Back to a complicated week for TikTok.
End of recreational applications in France, TikTok in the lead
If the government has not yet drawn up a precise list of prohibited applications, it is targeting so-called “recreational” applications. Among these is “the triptych of gaming applications like Candy Crush, streaming like Netflix and recreational like TikTok”, explains the entourage of the Minister of Public Service, Stanislas Guerini. This decision comes after an analysis carried out by the National Agency for Information Systems Security (Anssi) and the Interministerial Digital Department (Dinum).
These applications present “risks in terms of cybersecurity and data protection of public officials and the administration”, insists the entourage of the minister. Only a few derogations, in particular for institutional communication purposes, are provided for. While the ban comes into effect immediately, no sanctions have yet been decided. It also does not concern the personal telephones of civil servants.
Turbulent hearing in the US Congress
The day before this decision by France, the boss of the application, Shou Zi Chew, had to face the remonstrances of members of the American Congress for more than five hours. He hardly tried to defend his application, in the face of intractable American elected officials, who had for the most part condemned the platform in advance. Several bills, supported on the right and on the left, are in the pipeline to ban TikTok, strong of 150 million American monthly users. The White House hinted that if the platform remained under ByteDance’s fold, it would be banned.
According to elected officials, the Chinese Communist Party uses TikTok for purposes of espionage and manipulation. Shou Chew promised that by the end of the year, all information related to the 150 million American users would be managed solely from servers of the Texas-based Oracle group, located in the United States.
But he had to acknowledge that the platform still has old data accessed by Chinese employees. “The Chinese government does not own or control ByteDance. It is a private enterprise,” he insisted, however. Representative Anna Eshoo called his arguments “preposterous”. “I don’t believe there really is a private sector in China,” she said, referring to Chinese law that requires companies in the country to share their data if Beijing asks them to.
Prohibition in the British Parliament
The same day, Thursday, it was the British Parliament which announced the banning of the social network, following in the footsteps of a measure taken by the British government. “Following the government’s decision to ban TikTok from government devices, the House of Commons and Lords Committees have decided that TikTok will be blocked from all parliamentary devices and the parliamentary network,” a spokesperson said. Parliament. A measure already implemented by the American and Canadian governments, or even the European Commission.
The British Parliament had deleted its pilot account on TikTok last August, after fears expressed by some MPs over data security. More recently, the BBC earlier this week encouraged its employees to remove the app from their work devices.
TikTok deprecated in the Netherlands and Norway
Also in this logic of protecting against “an increased risk of espionage”, the Dutch government on Tuesday advised its officials not to use TikTok on their professional devices, as well as other applications managed by countries with a “cyber program offensive”, such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Ultimately, the government wants all civil servants’ work phones to be configured so that only previously authorized applications, software or features can be installed.
The discourse is more or less the same in Norway. “In their risk assessment (…), the intelligence services point to Russia and China as the main risk factors for Norwegian security interests”, explained the Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl… yet very active on Tik Tok. She advised officials in the country on Tuesday against installing the Chinese app on their work devices.