Austria bans TikTok on government work phones

Austria said on Wednesday it will ban TikTok on federal employees' work phones, joining a growing list of Western nations cracking down on the Chinese-owned social media platform due to security concerns.

Austria bans TikTok on government work phones
An mobile user browses through the Chinese owned video-sharing 'Tik Tok' app on a smartphone. (Photo by Manjunath Kiran / AFP)

The decision followed advice from Austria’s intelligence services and several ministry experts.

Similar measures have recently been taken by the United States, Britain, Australia, France, the Netherlands and the European Commission.

“The federal government has decided to ban the private use and installation of TikTok on work devices of federal employees,” the Austrian interior ministry said in a statement sent to AFP.

Removing the app is intended to eliminate potential access to government information as much as possible,” the ministry added, without specifying when the measure would come into force.

Private devices will not be affected.

TikTok, which boasts more than one billion global users, is hugely popular worldwide for sharing short, viral videos.

Security concerns over TikTok have been underpinned by a 2017 Chinese law that requires local firms to hand over personal data to the state if it is relevant to national security.

But Beijing has denied these reforms pose a threat to ordinary users.

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Ex-minister found guilty in Austrian government contract graft

Former Austrian minister Sophie Karmasin was on Tuesday handed a 15-month suspended jail sentence over illegal deals restricting competition for government contracts, a Vienna court spokesman told AFP. 

Ex-minister found guilty in Austrian government contract graft

The case is one of many stemming from Austria’s Ibizagate scandal, which triggered a sprawling investigation by anti-corruption prosecutors and led to conservative Sebastian Kurz stepping down as chancellor in 2021.

Karmasin, who was family minister from 2013 to 2017 before Kurz came to power, was found guilty of manipulating competitors to secure government contracts to carry out studies for the sports ministry, court spokesman Christoph Zonsics-Kral said.

The suspended jail term was made conditional for a probationary period of three years.

Fifty-six-year-old Karmasin was acquitted of allegedly defrauding the state of tens of thousands of euros by receiving payments after having left the ministry.

READ ALSO: ‘Reforms needed urgently’: Is Austria becoming more corrupt?

A senior sports ministry official also incriminated in the case was acquitted of his alleged involvement in collusion to win government contracts.

The prosecution as well as the defence, which pleaded not guilty, have three days to appeal the sentences.

In 2019, Ibizagate brought down the coalition between the FPOe and Kurz’s centre-right People’s Party (OeVP).

The scandal broke when video footage emerged of former FPOe leader Strache promising public contracts to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece in exchange for election campaign support. The video, which was secretly filmed on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, led to wide-ranging corruption inquiries and accusations against other prominent politicians.

READ ALSO: Corruption in Austria: Why has ORF’s editor-in-chief resigned?

In October 2021, prosecutors ordered raids at the chancellery and the finance ministry while investigating allegations that Kurz’s inner circle used public money to pay for polls, which were skewed to boost his image.

The OeVP remains in power, currently governing with the Greens.