The Netherlands and Norway have joined a growing list of countries that have recently issued orders banning the use of TikTok on government-issued devices, as concerns grow over the app’s privacy, security, and potential ties to the Chinese government. This decision reflects a growing global trend of governments becoming increasingly cautious about the use of Chinese technology and apps.
The Dutch interior ministry issued a statement discouraging the use of apps from countries with an aggressive cyber-program targeting the Netherlands or Dutch interests on government-distributed phones. The advice follows an assessment by the national intelligence agency AIVD, which warned that apps from countries like China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran carry a heightened risk of espionage.
Norway’s justice minister also recommended that government employees abstain from using TikTok on their work devices. This decision came after risk assessments conducted by the Norwegian intelligence services identified Russia and China as the main risk factors for Norway’s security interests.
The European Union, the United States, Denmark, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have also recently issued orders prohibiting the use of TikTok on government devices. Experts fear sensitive information could be exposed when the app is downloaded, especially on government devices. TikTok’s data collection practices and content moderation policies have also come under scrutiny, with some critics arguing that the platform may contribute to the spread of harmful content and misinformation.
The video-sharing platform, owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, has long maintained that it does not share users’ data with the Chinese government and that it is run independently. TikTok disputes accusations that it collects more user data than other social media companies and has called the bans “basic misinformation,” saying these had been decided with “no deliberation or evidence”.
However, many countries remain cautious about the platform and its ties to China. Western technology companies, including Airbnb, Yahoo, and LinkedIn, have also been leaving China or downsizing operations there because of Beijing’s strict privacy law, which specifies how companies can collect and store data. This exodus highlights the challenges faced by global technology companies in navigating the complex and often politically charged landscape of data privacy and security.
In response to these concerns, TikTok has made efforts to distance itself from the Chinese government and improve its data privacy practices. The company has implemented measures such as Project Texas, aimed at protecting user data and assuring users of the platform’s independence from Chinese authorities. Despite these measures, the app continues to face skepticism and scrutiny from governments around the world.
As the debate around TikTok’s privacy and security practices continues, it highlights the larger issue of data privacy across all technology companies, including US businesses like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Snap. The US currently lacks a comprehensive digital privacy law, which could help address data privacy concerns across the industry.
The growing trend of countries banning TikTok on government devices reflects a global shift towards greater scrutiny of Chinese technology and its potential risks. As the debate continues, it is crucial for governments, technology companies, and users to engage in an informed and nuanced conversation about the complex issues surrounding data privacy, security, and the role of technology in modern society.