Australia has become the latest country to ban TikTok from federal government devices, as concerns grow over the privacy and security of the Chinese-owned video-sharing app.
The United States, Canada, Britain and New Zealand - which form with Australia the so-called "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing partners - have all taken similar steps against TikTok in recent weeks.
Experts fear sensitive information could be exposed when the app is downloaded, especially on government devices.
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".
TikTok is owned by the Chinese technology company Bytedance but it insists it is run independently and does not share data with the Chinese government. It is currently carrying out a project to store US user data in Texas, which it says will put it out of China’s reach.
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.
Here are the countries and regions that have announced or already implemented partial or total bans on the app.
On April 4, Australia banned TikTok from all federal government-owned devices over security concerns.
A notice issued by the Attorney General’s Department said TikTok poses security and privacy risks due to the "extensive collection of user data and exposure to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflicts with Australian law".
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said in a statement that based on intelligence and security agencies’ advice, the ban would come into effect "as soon as practicable".
At the end of March, Estonia's outgoing minister of IT and foreign trade, Kristjan Järvan, told a local newspaper that TikTok would be banned from smartphones issued by the state to public officials.
However, speaking to Eesti Päevaleht, the minister added: "If a public official uses their private phone while at work, we really won't be looking into that".
On March 16, Oliver Dowden, the UK Secretary of State in the Cabinet Office, announced in a statement to the UK's House of Commons an immediate ban of the app on government official devices.
"This is a precautionary move. We know that there is already limited use of TikTok across government, but it is also good cyber hygiene," the minister said in his address to MPs.
The ban is based on a report by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre, which found "there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms".
Although the UK was one the first countries to ban the use of other Chinese-owned technology such as Huawei's,**critics flagged the delay in banning TikTok**compared to allies.
The European Parliament, European Commission, and the EU Council, the three top EU bodies, have all banned TikTok on staff devices, citing cybersecurity concerns.
The European Parliament's ban took effect on March 20. It also “strongly recommended” that members of parliament and staff remove the app from their personal devices as well.
On March 24, the French government banned the installation and use of "recreational" applications such as TikTok, Netflix and Instagram on the work phones of 2.5 million civil servants.
The ban, which was notified through a "binding" instruction, immediately took effect and does not apply to the personal phones of state employees.
France is the first country to step up efforts to also ban other "recreational" applications such as Netflix on government devices.
“Recreational applications do not present sufficient levels of cybersecurity and data protection to be deployed on administration equipment. These applications may therefore constitute a risk to the data protection of these administrations and their public officials,” the French government said in a statement.
French Minister of Public Service Stanislas Guerini tweeted that the measure was intended to “ensure the cybersecurity” of the country's administrations and civil servants.
The Dutch interior ministry has discouraged the use of all apps from “countries with an aggressive cyber-programme targeted at the Netherlands or Dutch interests” on phones distributed by the government.
It did not identify TikTok by name, but the advice followed an assessment by the national intelligence agency AIVD that warned that apps from countries such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran carried “a heightened risk of espionage”.
"The central government must be able to do its work securely, including via its mobile devices," Alexandra van Huffelen, the Dutch Minister for Digitalisation said on March 21.
Eventually, the government wants all civil servants' business phones to be configured so that only applications, software or features that have been previously authorised can be installed and used.
On March 23, the Norwegian parliament banned Tiktok from work devices, after the country’s Justice Ministry warned the app shouldn’t be installed on phones issued to government employees.
Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said in a statement that “in their risk assessments ... the Norwegian intelligence services single out Russia and China as the main risk factors for Norway's security interests".
She added that "they also single out social media as a forum favoured by potentially dangerous actors and others who want to influence us with disinformation and fake news".
Civil servants can still use TikTok if necessary on professional grounds, but only on devices that are not connected to the government's network, the ministry said.
Norway's capital Oslo and its second-largest city, Bergen, have also urged municipal employees to remove TikTok from their work phones.
On March 10, Belgium announced it was banning TikTok from devices owned or paid for by Belgium's federal government for at least six months, citing worries about cybersecurity, privacy, and misinformation.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the ban was based on warnings from the state security service and its cybersecurity centre, which said the app could harvest user data and tweak algorithms to manipulate its news feed and content.
Responding to Belgium’s announcement, TikTok said it was "disappointed at this suspension, which is based on basic misinformation about our company,” adding that they were "readily available to meet with officials to address any concerns and set the record straight on misconceptions".
On March 6, Denmark’s Defense Ministry announced it would "ban the use of the app on official units" as a cybersecurity measure.
In a statement, the ministry said the Scandinavian country’s Centre for Cyber Security - which is part of Denmark’s foreign intelligence service - had assessed there was a risk of espionage.
The ministry said "there were weighty security considerations within the defence ministry combined with a very limited work-related need to use the app," and that employees "are required to uninstall TikTok on service phones and other official devices as soon as possible if they have previously installed it".
The US also gave government agencies until the end of March to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems over data security concerns. The ban applies only to government devices, though some US lawmakers have been advocating an outright ban.
More than half of the 50 US states have banned the app from government devices.
However, a bid to ban TikTok from operating in the United States altogether was blocked in the Senate on March 30.
Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share TikTok user data with China’s authoritarian government.
There is also concern about TikTok’s content and whether it harms teenagers’ mental health. Researchers from the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate said in a report in December that eating disorder content on the platform had amassed 13.2 billion views.
Roughly two-thirds of US teens use TikTok, according to the Pew Research Center.
After the US move, Canada announced on February 28 it was banning TikTok from all government-issued devices, saying the app presents an “unacceptable” risk to privacy and security.
Employees will also be blocked from downloading the application in the future.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time that further action may or may not follow.
"I suspect that as government takes the significant step of telling all federal employees that they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones many Canadians from business to private individuals will reflect on the security of their own data and perhaps make choices," Trudeau said.
"I’m always a fan of giving Canadians the information for them to make the right decisions for them," he added.
On March 17, New Zealand announced TikTok would be banned from the phones of government lawmakers at the end of the month.
Unlike in other countries such as the UK, the ban doesn't affect all government workers and only applies to about 500 people in the parliamentary complex.
Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said officials could make special arrangements if they needed TikTok to perform their democratic duties.
New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins said he didn't have TikTok on his phone and added, “I'm not that hip and trendy”.
In 2020, India imposed a ban on TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps, including the messaging app WeChat, 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.
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, including apps like TikTok, its Chinese equivalent Douyin, or Xiaohongshu, a Chinese lifestyle content app.
Pakistani authorities have temporarily banned TikTok at least four times since October 2020, citing concerns that the app promotes immoral content.
Afghanistan's Taliban leadership banned TikTok and the game PUBG in 2022 on the grounds of protecting youths from "being misled".