On Tuesday, the European Union warned internet giant TikTok to abide by EU law and ensure the security of European users’ data, while the chief executive of the video-sharing app met with top officials in Brussels.
TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, has come under heavy Western scrutiny in recent months amid concerns over how much access Beijing has to user data.
TiKTok CEO Shou Zi Chew held official talks for the first time with EU Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Vera Jourova, Commissioner for
“I am counting on TikTok to fully live up to its commitments to do its best to respect EU law and regain the trust of European regulators,” Jourova, whose portfolio includes the protection of EU values, tweeted along with a video of their meetings.
“There can be no doubt that users’ data in Europe is safe and not subject to illegal access by third country authorities,” she said.
In November, TikTok acknowledged that some employees in China had access to European users’ data – but Chew told Jourova that the company was working on a “robust” system to process the data of Europeans in Europe, an EU spokesperson said.
Theo Bertram, TikTok’s vice president of public policy in Europe, later said the company explained during the talks how it would “further strengthen data security in Europe, including by establishing our European data centers in Ireland.”
ByteDance is already under investigation by the Irish privacy regulator into whether it has breached EU data protection law, the GDPR, by processing children’s personal data and transferring data to China.
“I have insisted on the importance of TikTok being fully GDPR compliant and working with the DPC,” said Reynders.
The EU has also intensified its fight against disinformation with a reinforced code of conduct, and Jourova said TikTok would submit its first report on the issue by the end of January. “Transparency will be a key element,” she said.
– ‘Highest Priority’ –
The EU has built a legislative arsenal aimed at tech companies, passing two major laws to ensure social media platforms comply with the bloc’s rules on digital issues.
The Digital Services Act (DSA) forces social media platforms, online marketplaces and search engines to react more quickly to remove content found to be in breach of EU rules.
The second, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), prohibits the anti-competitive behavior of so-called guardians of the internet.
Jourova said TikTok and others need to “quickly prepare for compliance with the EU’s new digital rulebook,” referring to DSA and DMA.
“The top priority for us is to be ready for this,” Bertram tweeted, saying the talks in Brussels focused on “our commitment to compliance”.
Last month, TikTok admitted that ByteDance employees accessed data from the app to track journalists in order to identify the source of media leaks.
The company denies that the Chinese government has any control or access.
But Washington has blocked the app from federal government devices, and some US lawmakers are trying to ban TikTok from operating in the US.
Last year, TikTok said it was working on a plan to address Washington’s concerns by storing US user data in the United States.
Chew will also hold a video call with Thierry Breton, the EU’s top digital enforcement officer, on January 19.