The staff at the Irish Government departments and agencies have been asked to remove the Chinese video-sharing application TikTok from their work-related devices following a thorough risk analysis by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the Irish Times reported.
The NCSC said that its evaluation “leant heavily on the experiences” of the European Commission, the European Union, the UK, and other organisations in addition to being in line with procedures in other nations. Due to data protection and privacy concerns related to the company’s relationship with the Chinese government, a number of nations, notably the UK and the Netherlands, have blocked the use of TikTok on government devices.
Use of the app is no longer allowed under the guidelines outlined in the Acceptable Usage Policy for Irish State employees, according to The Irish Times. On Friday, parent departments and then staff received a message outlining the instructions, which The Irish Times obtained. They were instructed to remove the Chinese-owned social media app from any devices that were already running it and stop installing the programme altogether.
A Department of Communications spokesperson, who is in charge of the NCSC, said the restriction extends to all departments, agencies, and other government entities falling under their purview, with the exception of “exceptional cases where there is a business need,” as per The Irish Times. “This recommendation was informed by a detailed risk assessment carried out by the NCSC, and extensive engagement with relevant stakeholders, including the Data Protection Commission (DPC), the European Commission and other Member States,” the spokesperson added.
Chief Executive of BH Consulting, which specialises in cybersecurity and data protection, Brian Honan said. “The primary concern they have is that TikTok may be forced by the Chinese Government to hand over data from their user base and if some of them are Government employees that may enable the Chinese Government to do espionage or surveillance on those people,” adding, “It’s no big surprise the Irish Government has [gone] the same way.”
The action taken on Friday is a sign of deepening discomfort with China and related security issues. The European Commission issued a directive to its workforce in February 2017 ordering them to immediately uninstall any commission-related apps from all work-related and personal devices.
List of countries that have banned TikTok
Australia: On April 4, Australia banned the Chinese video-sharing application TikTok on Government devices over fears that the application’s security could be compromised and the platform could be used for foreign interference by China.
France: On March 24, Stanislas Guerini, French Civil Service Minister, announced that France would ban the use of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok on the work phones of civil servants. “In order to guarantee the cybersecurity of our administrations and civil servants, the government has decided to ban recreational applications such as TikTok on the professional phones of civil servants,” he tweeted.
New Zealand: Last month, New Zealand joined the list of countries acting against the Chinese-owned video-sharing application, banning it on government-related devices due to rising cybersecurity concerns.
United Kingdom: Following a review of the video-sharing application by Britain’s cyber-security experts, the United Kingdom’s Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said, “clear that there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms.” The United Kingdom banned TikTok from all government devices last month with immediate effect.
European Union: The European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU Council have banned its staff members from downloading or using TikTok over their official phones. Furthermore, the European Parliament “strongly recommended” that the staff members remove the Chinese video-sharing application from their personal phones as well.
Belgium: On March 10, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo banned the use of TikTok from government phones over worries and risks concerning cybersecurity, privacy and misinformation. He said, “We are in a new geopolitical context where influence and surveillance between states have shifted to the digital world.”
“We must not be naive: TikTok is a Chinese company which today is obliged to cooperate with the intelligence services. This is the reality. Prohibiting its use on federal service devices is common sense,” he added.
Denmark: On March 6, Denmark declared a ban on the use of TikTok over official devices after the Defence Ministry said the Centre for Cyber Security that it assessed there was a risk of espionage in its statement.
Canada: In view of a review by Canada’s chief information officer, the country has prohibited the use of TikTok from all government-issued devices. The government spokesperson said that the application “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” in their statement.
United States: Last month, United States President Joe Biden told government agencies to delete the Chinese video-sharing application within 30 days from all federal devices and systems. Furthermore, the US has also threatened a complete ban on TikTok if its Chinese owners do not divest their stake in it.
India: In 2020, the Government of India banned numerous Chinese applications, including TikTok, after 20 Indian soldiers were martyred in a confrontation with Chinese forces in Galwan Valley. The government said that the applications were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”
Taiwan: In December 2022, Taiwan banned TikTok from government devices and initiated a probe against the social media company on suspicions of illegally operating a subsidiary.