Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday March 10 a six-month ban on the use of the TikTok application on function phones provided by the federal state, citing a risk of misappropriation of sensitive data for the benefit of China.
“We must not be naive: TikTok is a Chinese company that today is forced to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services. This is the reality”, justified the Flemish liberal leader in a press release. An argument fiercely refuted by the social network, owned by the Chinese giant ByteDance.
TikTok banned from European institutions
In recent weeks, following in the footsteps of US federal authorities, the European Commission and the European Parliament have already banned TikTok from their employees’ devices, as has the Danish Parliament.
The ban announced by Alexander De Croo concerns browsing on the video platform with a professional smartphone or tablet by civil servants, cabinet members or ministers of the Belgian federal state, but not use on their personal devices. If these personal devices are used for professional purposes, it is nevertheless “recommended (…) not to install the application”, specifies the press release.
“We are disappointed with this suspension, based on erroneous information”, reacted TikTok, assuring “not to be a Chinese company” and affirming that its parent company, “located outside of China”, is “majority owned by international institutional investors”.
“TikTok user data is hosted in the United States and Singapore, not in China (…) The Chinese government cannot force another sovereign country to provide data stored on its territory”, argued a door. -word. “We are available to meet with (Belgian) officials to address any concerns and clear up any misunderstandings,” he added.
Six month ban
Anxious to reassure the European authorities, TikTok announced on Wednesday that the data of its users in Europe would be stored from this year in three centers, two in Ireland and one in Norway.
The ban decided on Friday by the Belgian government will last six months and will then be “reassessed”. It was decided on the basis of an analysis produced jointly by the National Center for Cybersecurity (CCB) and State Security (civil intelligence) which assesses the risks of espionage.
Flanders, the most populous region of the country (the Dutch-speaking north), had already taken a similar decision on Thursday, imitated on Friday by the Brussels-Capital region. Last week, Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder, who uses TikTok for her political communication, assured that the application was installed on a phone dedicated solely to this use.
Brussels, target of choice
Belgium, which hosts the headquarters of NATO and many European institutions, is “a very attractive target for espionage and Chinese influence activities”, noted in January the last annual report of the security of the ‘State.
The text mentioned the “particularly problematic” situation of employees or lobbyists linked to Chinese interests, who “often do not realize how closely the company or institution they work for is linked to China’s strategic geopolitical objectives”.
In the United States, where a law has already banned TikTok from the devices of public officials, proposed legislation backed by the White House could result in the app being banned altogether across the country.
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