Complete Tiktok ban in Estonia difficult without amending law

Tiktok. Source: ERR

Many Western nations, notably the United States, are enforcing the ban on the state-controlled Chinese social networking app Tiktok. In Estonia, it would be difficult to ban Tiktok without amending the law.

Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives have just advanced legislation prohibiting the use of Tiktok on all mobile phones in the United States. Canada and Denmark have already prohibited government agencies from using the app.

There has been no hint of a similar restriction in Estonia. The Estonian Information System Authority (RIA) has only advised public officials not to use the application on their work equipment.

Tõnu Tammer, head of RIA's Cyber Incident Handling Department (CERT-EE), told ERR that "Tiktok ban may not be the best option. We advise people to think about it for themselves, as every organization has its own risk tolerance. People in Estonia are expected to assess their own risks," Tammer said.

The RIA is unaware of the number of government agencies that have disabled Tiktok on their devices. Simply put, public bodies are not required to notify the agency.

The Information System Authority barred its employees from using Tiktok on their work phones about two years ago and five ministries told ERR that they do not use Tiktok on their work devices, as recommended by the RIA. None of them, however, has officially prohibited it. In many institutions, only a small number of employees have a work phone.

A media adviser at the Government Office reported that they are simply unable to install Tiktok on their work phones.

Henrik Trasberg, adviser to the legal policy department of the Ministry of Justice, said that a complete ban of Tiktok in government institutions is still possible.

"In general, we have a cybersecurity law that covers this issue. This law is used to make regulations that set security standards. It is possible to set this security standard so that Tiktok and other similar services can't be used," he said.

Trasberg says that EU laws would have to be changed if Tiktok were banned more widely in Estonian society.

"The most important set of policies we have to safeguard citizens is data protection. If Tiktok violates data protection rules, it could face prosecution and/or a fine. Unfortunately, our present data protection regulations do not allow the regulatory body to completely ban Tiktok. This holds true even if they would violate the law," Trasberg emphasized.

Since data protection is standardized throughout EU member states, Trasberg explained, altering the data protection standards to ban Tiktok would need joint action at the EU level.

Trasberg said that a violation of data processing standards can result in a fine of up to €10 million or up to 2 percent of the preceding fiscal year's total revenue.

Yet, according to Trasberg, the fines under the EU General Data Protection Regulation have never been applied in Estonia and decisions can take a very long time to process.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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