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Italy mulls TikTok civil servant ban as app goes on charm offensive

After raising the issue, Public Administration Minister Zangrillo clarified the decision wasn’t his. Meanwhile, app maker ByteDance launches “Project Clover” to dispel European doubts amid a wider crackdown

Rome U-turns on TikTok? Italy’s Public Administration Minister Paolo Zangrillo, who had said the Italian government was considering a ban on the Chinese app for civil servants, recently stated there are no plans to do so.

  • In late February, shortly after European and United States institutions did prohibit public administration employees from installing TikTok on their devices, Mr Zangrillo had noted that Italy was mulling a similar measure.

On Wednesday, however, his words were far less decisive. “Fifteen days ago, I simply said that I noticed that both in the European community and in several US federal states, civil servants are banned from using TikTok. I raised the issue and said that it is appropriate to look into the matter and understand whether there are any security risks for users of this social networking site.”

  • When he asked whether Rome had plans to ban the app anytime soon, he replied, “absolutely not. Also because, moreover, it is not my decision.”

ByteDance’s charm offensive. Meanwhile, the Chinese company behind the app launched “Project Clover” – which consists of opening two more EU-based data centres in Ireland and Norway, on top of the already-planned one in Dublin – in an attempt to win back trust in Europe.

  • The company “will begin storing European TikTok user data locally this year, with migration continuing into 2024,” reads a company note.
  • Project Clover would show that TikTok is “mov[ing] from meeting industry standards to setting a new standard altogether when it comes to data security.”
  • The note also underscored the economic gain, stating that once completed, the three data centres will store European user data and “represent a total annual investment of €1.2 billion.

Why it matters: US and European lawmakers fear that TikTok user data might end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or that the latter might use the app to promote propaganda. ByteDance is attempting to allay those concerns…

  • … despite the fact that China’s National Security Law obliges foreign and domestic companies operating in China to share their data with the government if requested.

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