TikTok is pushing back against the European Union for not informing the company that they were banning the app on all government devices. The EU also took steps to ban the Chinese-owned app on staff’s personal devices with corporate access, amid concerns that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is accessing user data.
ByteDance has previously denied the allegations, saying it has no affiliation with the Chinese government but has now expressed its disdain for the EU’s decision to ban the app without warning. “So we are really operating under a cloud,” Caroline Greer, TikTok’s director of public policy and government relations, told Reuters. “And the lack of transparency and the lack of due process. Quite frankly one would expect, you know, some sort of engagement on this matter.”
TikTok did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
TikTok is currently banned on government devices in both the U.S. and India but was given the opportunity to carry out conversations with lawmakers in the years leading up to the ban. ByteDance negotiated with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) for more than three years in an effort to continue to do business with the U.S. and minimize the amount of access the Chinese government has to U.S. users.
The company argued that the EU did not hold similar conversations, saying it was blindsided by the ban. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew met with EU Industry Chief Thierry Breton in January, and Greer told Reuters that Chew was “concerned and a little puzzled” by the EU’s decision. “He [Chew] has always been very available, you know, responding to the Commission ... We have reached out for a meeting in whatever shape or form they would like that to happen,” Greer told the outlet.
TikTok’s Vice President of European Public Policy, Theo Bertram, told Bloomberg that the EU did not inform the company of the ban, saying executives found out through reports in the media and Tiktok never received notice of any concerns from the European Commission Department.
“We’ve never talked to them. They’ve never asked us for any input, so it’s a surprise,” Bertram told the outlet. “Normally we would expect some engagement and then some ability to understand what the case is against us, what the evidence is, to address that. And, in this instance, we haven’t had any of that.”
Contrary to TikTok’s claims that it hadn’t been informed of the potential for the ban, Breton said a ban was possible late last month if TikTok did not comply with EU privacy and regulation policies by September 1.
Bertram argued that TikTok is supposed to be able to do business in the EU if it follows content moderation laws and data protection, but Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who oversees the EU’s corporate management board, said at a press conference that the EU found no “immediate threat” but it’s taking proactive steps and measures to avoid future cybersecurity issues.
“It’s of course not a secret that we are under an increased cybersecurity threat, therefore we should have to take measures in order to avoid anything in the future,” Hahn said. “From our professional perspective it’s — I wouldn’t say business as usual – but it’s part of our daily work.”