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France bans TikTok, Instagram and Twitter from government staff phones

The French Minister for Transformation and Public Administration said in a statement that ‘recreational’ apps aren’t secure enough to be used in state administrative services

TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 23, 2023.EVELYN HOCKSTEIN (REUTERS)

France announced Friday it is banning the “recreational” use of TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and other apps on government employees’ phones because of concern about insufficient data security measures. The move follows similar restrictions on TikTok in democratic countries amid fears about the popular video-sharing app’s Chinese connections.

But the French decision also encompassed other platforms widely used by government officials, lawmakers and President Emmanuel Macron himself. The French Minister for Transformation and Public Administration, Stanislas Guerini, said in a statement that “recreational” apps aren’t secure enough to be used in state administrative services and “could present a risk for the protection of data.”

The ban will be monitored by France’s cybersecurity agency. The statement did not specify which apps are banned but noted that the decision came after other governments took measures targeting TikTok.

Guerini’s office said in a message to The Associated Press that the ban also will include Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, gaming apps like Candy Crush and dating apps.

Exceptions will be allowed. If an official wants to use a banned app for professional purposes, like public communication, they can request permission to do so. Case in point: Guerini posted the announcement of the ban on Twitter.

The U.S., Britain, the European Union and others have banned TikTok on government phones. Western governments worry Chinese authorities could force TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance Ltd., to hand over data on international users or push pro-Beijing narratives.

The company’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, pushed back on assertions that TikTok or ByteDance are tools of the Chinese government during questioning by U.S. lawmakers Thursday. The company has been reiterating that 60% of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors.

A law China implemented in 2017 requires companies to give the government any personal data relevant to the country’s national security. There’s no evidence that TikTok has turned over such data, but fears abound due to the vast amount of user data it collects.

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