Belgium is banning TikTok from government phones over worries about cybersecurity, privacy and misinformation, the country’s prime minister said on Friday. The Chinese-owned video sharing app will be temporarily prohibited from devices owned or paid for by the Belgium’s federal government for at least six months, according to a post on Alexander De Croo’s website. Belgian federal government employees will no longer be allowed to use the app on their work phones.
“We are in a new geopolitical context where influence and surveillance between states have shifted to the digital world,” De Croo said in an online statement. “We must not be naive: TikTok is a Chinese company, which today is obliged to cooperate with the intelligence services. This is the reality. Prohibiting its use on federal service devices is common sense.”
TikTok said it is “disappointed at this suspension, which is based on basic misinformation about our company,” adding that it’s “readily available to meet with officials to address any concerns and set the record straight on misconceptions.” The company also said that user data is stored in the U.S. and Singapore and pointed to new measures to ease European concerns by storing user data in European data centers.
“The Chinese government can’t force other sovereign nations to share data that is stored in their territory,” a spokesman for the company said.
The European Union’s three main institutions and Denmark’s defense ministry have already ordered employees to remove the app from devices used for official business. Similar bans have been imposed in Canada and the U.S.
The tussle over TikTok is part of a wider global rivalry between China and the U.S. and its Western allies over technological and economic supremacy. De Croo said Belgium’s ban was based on warnings from the state security service and its cybersecurity center, which said the app could harvest user data and tweak algorithms to manipulate its news feed and content. They also warned that TikTok could be compelled to carry out spying for Beijing, he said, without being more specific.