LONDON -- A growing number of governments have banned the popular video-sharing app TikTok from devices issued to staff as privacy and cybersecurity concerns rise. A handful have imposed nationwide bans on the app.
TikTok, owned by Chinese technology company Bytedance, has long maintained that it doesn't share data with the Chinese government. It says a project to store American user data in the U.S. will put it out of China's reach and it disputes accusations that it collects any more user data than U.S. social media companies do.
The arguments fell flat with U.S. lawmakers who grilled the company’s CEO last month, with some pushing for a total ban for American users amid reports that Washington wants to force ByteDance to sell off TikTok.
Many governments remain cautious about the platform and its ties to China. Here are the places that have implemented partial or total bans on TikTok:
Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership banned TikTok and the game PUBG in 2022 on the grounds of protecting young people from “being misled.”
TikTok was banned from devices issued by the Australian federal government. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said he made the decision after getting advice from the country's intelligence and security agencies.
Belgium temporarily banned TikTok from devices owned or paid for by the federal government, citing worries about cybersecurity, privacy and misinformation. Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the six-month ban was based on warnings from the country's state security service and cybersecurity center.
Canada announced government-issued devices must not use TikTok, saying that it presents an “unacceptable” risk to privacy and security. Employees will also be blocked from downloading the app in the future.
Denmark’s Defense Ministry banned its employees from having TikTok on their work phones, ordering staffers who have installed it to remove the app from devices as soon as possible. The ministry said the reasons for the ban included both “weighty security considerations” as well as “very limited work-related need to use the app.”
The European Parliament, European Commission and the EU Council, the 27-member bloc’s three main institutions, have imposed bans on TikTok on staff devices. Under the European Parliament’s ban, lawmakers and staff were also advised to remove the TikTok app from their personal devices.
“Recreational” use of TikTok and other social media apps like Twitter and Instagram on government employees’ phones has been banned because of worries about insufficient data security measures. The French government's statement didn't name specific apps but noted the decision came after other governments took measures targeting TikTok.
India imposed a nationwide ban on TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps like messaging app WeChat in 2020 over privacy and security concerns. The ban came shortly after a clash between Indian and Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border killed 20 Indian soldiers and injured dozens. The companies were given a chance to respond to questions on privacy and security requirements but the ban was made permanent in January 2021.
Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted that he deleted his TikTok account and that the app is also prohibited from official foreign ministry smartphones.
The Dutch central government banned apps including TikTok from employee work phones citing data security concerns. A government statement did not name TikTok specifically but said civil servants are discouraged from having apps "from countries with an offensive cyber program against the Netherlands and/or Dutch interests installed and used on their mobile work devices.”
Lawmakers in New Zealand and staff at the nation’s Parliament will be prohibited from having the TikTok app on their work phones, following advice from government cybersecurity experts. The app will be removed from all devices with access to the parliamentary network, although officials can make special arrangements for anybody who needs TikTok to perform their democratic duties.
The Norwegian parliament banned Tiktok on work devices, after the country's Justice Ministry warned the app shouldn't be installed on phones issued to government employees. The Parliament's speaker said TikTok shouldn't be on devices that have access to the assembly’s systems and should be removed as quickly as possible. The country's capital Oslo and second largest city Bergen also urged municipal employees to remove TikTok from their work phones.
Pakistani authorities have temporarily banned TikTok at least four times since October 2020, citing concerns that app promotes immoral content.
In December 2022, Taiwan imposed a public sector ban on TikTok after the FBI warned that TikTok posed a national security risk. Government devices, including mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers, are not allowed to use Chinese-made software, which include apps like TikTok, its Chinese equivalent Douyin, or Xiaohongshu, a Chinese lifestyle content app.
British authorities in mid-March banned TikTok from mobile phones used by government ministers and civil servants with immediate effect. Officials said the ban was a “precautionary move” on security grounds, and doesn't apply to personal devices. The British Parliament followed up by banning TikTok from all official devices and the “wider parliamentary network.” The semi-autonomous Scottish government and London City Hall also banned TikTok from staff devices. The BBC urged staff to delete TikTok from corporate devices unless they're using it for editorial and marketing reasons.
The U.S. at the start of March gave government agencies 30 days to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems over data security concerns. The ban applies only to government devices, though some U.S. lawmakers are advocating an outright ban. China lashed out at the U.S. for banning TikTok, describing the ban as an abuse of state power and suppressing firms from other countries. More than half of the 50 U.S. states also have banned the app from official devices, as have Congress and the U.S. armed forces.