TikTok is Banned on Federal Government Phones in Belgium, So Why is TikTok Being Banned?

The Belgian federal government has banned TikTok on electronic devices used by government officials. So why is TikTok being banned?

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said on Friday, March 10, 2023, that the Chinese video-sharing application TikTok has been banned on computers and mobile devices used by government officials.

The public statement in question was made after the meeting of the Belgian National Security Council.

Alexander De Croo stated that the Belgian National Security Council has warned that there may be risks related to the data collected by TikTok.

Belgian officials also suggested that TikTok is likely to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services.

Deputy Prime Minister Georges Gilkinet tweeted that the decision would apply at the federal level. Gilkinet wrote that this is a logical and necessary decision.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has urged regional, provincial and local governments to implement a similar TikTok ban. He said that the security of information is a priority.1

According to the statement made on the official website of the Prime Minister, the ban will last for six months and then it will be re-evaluated.

Mathieu Michel, Secretary of State for Digitization, said that this decision is aimed at protecting sensitive data. Mathieu Michel had previously requested a report from the Belgium Cybersecurity Center on this matter.

In the past weeks, similar bans against TikTok have been introduced in the United States, Canada, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

The New Centers Will Be Established

TikTok will establish new centers to ensure the confidence of European countries in the face of these bans. According to the announcement made by the authorities, the data of European users will be stored in centers in Ireland and Norway from this year.

Elaine Fox, TikTok’s head of privacy in Europe, said in a previous statement that the data of European users is stored in centers in the United States and Singapore.2

Why is TikTok Being Banned?

TikTok, the international version of the video sharing application launched by ByteDance under the name Douyin in China in 2016, spread all over the world in 2017. However, the fast-growing application has caused some doubts due to its Chinese origin.

The application, which was previously banned in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan, has also been on the agenda of Western countries in recent years, but for completely different reasons.

Due to privacy and cybersecurity reasons, the TikTok app has been banned on business phones of some government officials in the USA, Canada, Denmark and finally Belgium.

Authorities believe that important data could be captured if the application is put under pressure by Chinese intelligence services.

TikTok was also banned from public devices in Taiwan last year, on suspicion of being used for cognitive warfare purposes by the Chinese government.

In Which Countries is TikTok Banned?

TikTok has been partially or completely banned for various reasons in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Armenia, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Iran, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Belgium, Canada and the United States in the last 5 years. However, some of these bans only lasted a few days.

  1. Tijdelijk verbod op TikTok op diensttoestellen federale overheid“, www.premier.be, March 10, 2023[]
  2. The Brussels Times with Belga, March 8, 2023[]