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First TikTok, now Netflix: Why is France banning the streaming site on government devices?

: These are the apps banned on French government devices
: These are the apps banned on French government devices Copyright Euronews / Canva
Copyright Euronews / Canva
By Camille Bello
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The French government has banned the use of "recreational" apps such as TikTok, Netflix and Instagram on the work phones of its civil servants.

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In recent months, lawmakers in the United States, Europe, and Canada have stepped up efforts to restrict access to TikTok, the popular video-sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, as concerns grow over the app's ties to China, privacy, and security.

The latest countries to join the list are the Netherlands, Norway, and France. But the latter has taken the matter a step further.

On Friday, the French government announced it would ban the installation of all "recreational" applications - including the likes of TikTok, Netflix, Instagram, and Twitter - on government-issued devices. The measure will affect about 2.5 million civil servants.

"Recreational applications do not deliver sufficient levels of cybersecurity and data protection to be deployed on administration equipment. These applications may therefore constitute a risk to the data protection of these administrations and their public officials," the French government said in a statement.

French civil servants will have a month to either delete the said applications or to refer to their department if an exception has to be made, namely for communication departments.

"We will have specific derogations which will be legitimate and which will be applied," a spokesperson for Stanislas Guerini, the French Minister of Public Services, told Euronews Next.

"We must bear in mind that these recreational applications were not designed to guarantee a level of cybersecurity and data protection sufficient to be deployed in the digital tools of our administrations".

Growing TikTok ban

The country’s Ministry of Home Affairs had already implemented similar restrictions in the past. 

"Our intention is to standardise the rule. Now it will apply to all ministries, to all administrations for the sake of clarity or simply for the sake of the effectiveness of our cybersecurity policies," they added.

The assessment was done in the context of other EU countries and the European Commission banning TikTok from the phones of public officials, “and we have also had analyses at the national level,” the spokesperson said.

Our intention is to standardise the rule. Now it will apply to all ministries, to all administrations for the sake of clarity or simply for the sake of the effectiveness of our cybersecurity policies.
Spokesperson
Office of Stanislas Guerini, Minister of Public Services

"The French National Agency for Information Systems Security (ANSSI) has also produced reports, notably one which revealed that recreational applications were less secure, whereas going directly to the website, of Instagram for example, poses far fewer problems in terms of cyber security".

Recreational applications will not be banned entirely, the spokesperson confirmed, but employees will have to "simply go through the website, or in any case, restrict the use of their business phones for communication services for example".

"ANSSI works on cybersecurity issues, and they have provided us with sufficient information to bring forward these decisions in conjunction with the digital department," they said.

"We are not specifically targeting TikTok or Netflix, but all the recreational applications together".

Guerini’s office clarified to Euronews Next that they had not uncovered any specific security risk in the apps covered by the latest ban.

"This decision is taken more broadly on the basis of recreational applications in the broad sense," the spokesperson said.

"Above all, it is decision-related to cybersecurity, to data protection. It's first and foremost a security decision".

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