On Tuesday, the European Union warned Chinese 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 ByteDance parent company 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 talks for the first time with EU Vice Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Vera Jourova, Bloc Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.
“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 added.
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 spokesman said.
ByteDance is already under investigation by the Irish privacy regulator, the DPC, for violations of EU data protection law, the GDPR, in how children’s personal information is handled, and for data transfers 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.”
– ‘Get ready’ –
The EU has built a powerful legislative arsenal targeting 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 warned TikTok and others that they must “quickly prepare for compliance with the EU’s new digital rulebook,” referring to DSA and DMA.
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 strenuously denies that Beijing has any control or access.
But Washington has blocked the app from federal government devices while 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 currently in Spain, on January 19.