Belgium Bans TikTok from Government Devices Over Cybersecurity Concerns

In response, TikTok denied having ties to the Chinese government

TikTok has been banned on phones owned or issued by the government of Belgium after an increase in concerns about privacy and cybersecurity.

The nation’s prime minister announced on March 10 that the video-sharing app, which is owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance, cannot be used on a device that the government owns or pays for a period of at least six months. 

“We can’t be naive: TikTok is a Chinese company that currently is mandated to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, per Politico.

The ban does not apply to government employees’ personal devices, although the government discouraged its citizens from using the platform. 

TikTok told AP News that it is “disappointed at this suspension, which is based on basic misinformation about our company” and that it is “readily available to meet with officials to address any concerns and set the record straight on misconceptions.”

“TikTok is not a Chinese company. Our parent company is also incorporated outside of China and is majority owned by global institutional investors,” TikTok noted.

Under a 2017 national security law, the Chinese government requires every company based in China to turn over user data. TikTok collects users’ internet search history as well as geolocation and device information.

A wave of American states enacted similar bans between November of 2022 and February of 2023, including Ohio which has a population equivalent to Belgium.

“Social media applications and platforms operating in China engage in surreptitious data privacy and cybersecurity practices to include collecting personal information, behavioral use data, biometric data, and other data contained on the devices of its users,” wrote Governor Mike DeWine in January. 

The U.S. federal government is considering a national ban on TikTok. President Joe Biden endorsed the current bipartisan legislative effort on March 8.

Additionally, the Canadian government banned TikTok on government devices.

I suspect that as government takes the significant step of telling all federal employees that they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones, many Canadians from business to private individuals will reflect on the security of their own data and perhaps make choices,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, per The Evening Standard

Similar concerns have been expressed by a number of European countries, prompting a global wave of restrictions on the device.

The European Union has already banned its staff from using TikTok on any work-related devices. The app was also banned on devices issued by the governments of Sweden and Finland.

The Estonian government banned employees of its defense ministry from accessing the app on both government and personal devices. The Czech Republic has wanted its citizens not to use TikTok.

TikTok is being monitored by Spain, Greece, Austria, and the United Kingdom.

After a six-month period, Belgium says it will reevaluate its ban. 

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