New Zealand Bans TikTok on Government Devices, Will Australia Follow Suit?

New Zealand Bans TikTok on Government Devices, Will Australia Follow Suit?

Earlier this week, the UK announced it was banning TikTok on government phones, following moves in the U.S. that are seeking to do much of the same. Today, the New Zealand government has effectively banned the use of TikTok on the phones of MPs, with the rules coming into force from March 31.

Brought to our attention by the New Zealand Herald, it is understood the country’s Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said in an internal memo that the risks with TikTok are “not acceptable”.

In a statement, Gonzalez-Montero said TikTok would be “removed from all devices with access to the parliamentary network”, but arrangements would be made for staff who needed to use TikTok “to perform their democratic duties”.

The Chinese-owned video app has come under increasing focus over fears that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests. It comes as Bloomberg is reporting that TikTok’s internal leadership has discussed breaking off from its parent company ByteDance. This would either result in the company going public, or a sale to the highest bidder. TikTok is worth a pretty penny, near $US50 billion by some estimates. That’s around $70 billion.

The ban by New Zealand comes as security experts in Australia call for a similar move for governmental TikTok users here. As reported by the ABC, several Australian government departments and agencies have banned TikTok from their devices, but there is no public-service-wide rule.

Back in July, we brought it to your attention that an investigation found that using TikTok on your phone gives the app access to your personal information. A lot of it, in fact.

Analysis by Australian cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0 found TikTok requests almost complete access to the contents of a phone while the app is in use. That data includes calendar, contact lists and photos.

As a result, the Australian Department of Home Affairs in September said it was going to be looking into the data harvesting practices of both TikTok and WeChat.

Back in 2020, Home Affairs did conduct an investigation into TikTok. Well, the department’s cybersecurity risk area performed a risk assessment internally for departmental systems in January 2020. But apparently, there was no advice provided to government on TikTok as a result of this review.

Shadow minister for cybersecurity James Paterson has been calling for a TikTok ban for a while, adding further comments to the debate re-sparked today by New Zealand.

Maybe Australia will be next in announcing a ban on TikTok, given our friends in New Zealand have done it.

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