Belgian regional government restricts staff's access to TikTok

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows TikTok app logo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's Flemish regional government decided on Thursday to block access to Chinese-owned video app TikTok on its staff's phones and computers after being advised by several Belgian security and cyber security agencies, an official statement said.

A number of EU institutions have recently banned TikTok, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, on staff phones due to growing concerns that users' data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.

Beijing has regularly denied having any such intentions.

"It is important that all government employees are aware of the risks involved in using the app," Johan Smekens, a top official at the Flemish regional government's digitization department, said. The ban was effective immediately.

While the regional government did not mention China in its statement announcing the ban, it did refer to recent decisions by EU institutions as a reason to investigate if a restriction were needed.

TikTok has said bans by EU institutions were misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions.

The U.S. Senate also banned TikTok on government-owned devices, and Canada has adopted a similar decision. India has banned the app throughout the country.

(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout; Editing by Susan Fenton)