Belgium is banning TikTok from government phones over worries about cybersecurity, privacy and misinformation, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said on Friday last week, mirroring recent action by other authorities in Europe and the US.
The Chinese-owned video sharing app will be temporarily prohibited from devices owned or paid for by Belgium’s federal government for at least six months, according to a post on de Croo’s Web site.
TikTok said it is “disappointed at this suspension, which is based on basic misinformation about our company.” The company said it’s “readily available to meet with officials to address any concerns and set the record straight on misconceptions.”
Photo: Bloomberg 照片：彭博社
TikTok is owned by China’s ByteDance, which moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. The company sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots, saying its parent company is incorporated outside of China and it’s majority owned by global institutional investors.
However, 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 US.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said TikTok could be used to control data and software on millions of devices in the US and drive narratives to divide Americans while even intelligence agencies might miss manipulation by the Chinese-owned video app.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio called TikTok “one of the most valuable surveillance tools on the planet.”
“They can collect our data, manipulate information, poison the minds and feed garbage into the minds of millions of people,” Rubio said. “This is a substantial national security threat for the country, of a kind that we didn’t face in the past.”
The platform has been under a national security review by the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, or Cfius, and is set to be banned on federal devices.
The tussle over TikTok is part of a wider global rivalry between China and the US 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.
“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 user data is stored in the US and Singapore and pointed to new measures to ease European concerns by storing user data in European data centers.
(AP and Bloomberg)
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