Days after the UK banned TikTok on government devices, New Zealand joined the trend by banning the short video app on parliamentary devices. The move comes amid growing security concerns over the handing over of user data to the Chinese government by TikTok owner ByteDance.
The country’s authorities cited cybersecurity reasons and said the app would be banned from any device with access to the parliamentary network by the end of March. However, authorities are making an exception for people who might need the app to “perform their democratic duties.” They did not specify what that might mean.
The chief executive of the Parliamentary Service, Rafael González-Montero, told Reuters in an email that the government made the decision after consulting with cybersecurity experts and authorities in other countries.
“Based on this information, the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in New Zealand’s current parliamentary environment,” it said.
“Following the advice of our cyber security experts, the Parliamentary Service has informed members and staff that the TikTok app will be removed from all devices with access to the parliamentary network.”
In response to this, TikTok said that the company was not consulted or notified about the ban.
“We are disappointed with the decision to block the TikTok app from devices managed by the Parliamentary Service. This decision was made without consulting or notifying TikTok. Data security is of the utmost importance to TikTok, and there is no evidence to suggest that TikTok poses a security risk to New Zealanders. We think it’s important that decision-making be based on facts, not misinformation,” a TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement.
The app said it has written to the New Zealand Parliamentary Service to seek an explanation and have a discussion with them to address any issues.
New Zealand joins a plethora of nations that have banned TikTok on official devices. In December, the US House of Representatives banned the app from the devices of all staff and legislators. Other countries like Canada and Belgium have also joined the fray by banning the app. Last month, the European Union also ordered its staff to remove TikTok from their devices.
Notably, India banned TikTok in the country in 2020, saying the app threatened “India’s national security and defence.” At the time, India was the largest market for the short video app with over 200 million users.
While bans on various government devices may worry TikTok, its China-based owner’s most pressing concern could be a looming US embargo. The Biden administration is reportedly threatening a ban unless ByteDance breaks its ties with TikTok and sells the app.
TikTok has repeatedly tried to convince the US (and other) governments that China cannot access any user data. It’s been going through an audit by Oracle and has asked the press and the regulator to visit its newly built Transparency Center which allows them to take a look at the app’s moderation policies. The company has spent nearly $1.5 billion on the offensive charm campaign to try to appease the authorities.
“If the goal is to protect national security, divestiture does not solve the problem: a change in ownership would not place new restrictions on data flows or access,” TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan told TechCrunch earlier this month. this week. “National security concerns are best addressed with transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems, with robust monitoring, investigation, and third-party verification. , which we are already implementing”.