Irish authorities are currently considering a potential ban on TikTok from government devices, as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) becomes the first major English-language broadcaster to request staff to remove the app from company phones.
This development follows the UK, US, and European Commission’s decision to ban the popular social media platform from staff smartphones, citing “good security hygiene”. While the BBC maintains that its actions are based on security advice for staff with sensitive work-related information, the ban could signify a growing trend among large organisations and government bodies to restrict TikTok’s access on corporate or staff phones.
Despite assurances from TikTok’s Chinese parent company, Bytedance, that it does not grant Beijing access to or influence over its data collection processes or algorithms, western governments remain sceptical. Recently, Belgium, Canada, and New Zealand have joined the group of countries limiting TikTok’s use on government devices.
In Ireland, the National Cyber Security Centre is conducting a review of TikTok to advise the Minister for Justice on whether the app should be removed from government phones. According to the Irish Independent, this review has involved direct discussions with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon.
Concerns surrounding the Chinese government’s transparency and access to company data persist among western administrations and organisations that store sensitive information on smartphones.
Theo Bertram, TikTok’s most senior European policy director, acknowledged to the Irish Independent that the app has become entangled in geopolitics. Nevertheless, he asserted that the company is not Chinese and that its 3,000 jobs in Ireland, along with plans for a second data centre, will not be affected by any potential ban.
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) is currently undertaking two investigations into TikTok, including one to determine if data is being improperly sent to China. Commissioner Helen Dixon anticipates a draft decision in the coming months.
Bertram emphasised that TikTok is a global private company and not Chinese, describing accusations to the contrary as a “myth” feeding “geopolitical” hostility against the platform in some Western countries. He further denied that Chinese authorities possess a ‘golden share’ in the social media platform, clarifying that Beijing’s mandatory stake in a Chinese subsidiary of Bytedance does not equate to a role in TikTok’s structure or activity.