New Zealand bans TikTok From Phones of Parliamentarians – The U.K. banned TikTok from government devices a few days ago, and now New Zealand has followed suit by banning the short video app from parliamentary devices. The move comes amid growing security concerns about TikTok-owner ByteDance handing user data to the Chinese government.
The government said that the app would not be allowed on any device that could connect to the parliament’s network by the end of March. They said that this was to protect cybersecurity. The government is making an exception, though, for people who might need the app to “perform their democratic duties.” They didn’t specify what that might mean.
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In an email to Reuters, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, the head of the Parliamentary Service, said that the decision was made after the government talked to cybersecurity experts and officials from other countries. “Based on this information, the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand Parliamentary environment,” he said.
“On advice from our cyber security experts, Parliamentary Service has informed members and staff the app TikTok will be removed from all devices with access to the parliamentary network.” In response to this, TikTok said that the company wasn’t consulted or notified of the ban.
“We are disappointed in the decision to block the TikTok app from Parliamentary Service-managed devices. This decision was made without consultation with, or notification, to TikTok. Data security is of the highest importance to TikTok, and there is no evidence to suggest that TikTok poses a security risk to New Zealanders.”
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“We believe it is important that decision-making is based on fact, not misinformation,” A TikTok Spokesperson said in a statement. The app said that it has written to New Zealand’s Parliamentary Service to seek an explanation and have a discussion with them to address any issues.
New Zealand is one of many countries that have banned TikTok from being used on government devices. In December, the U.S. House of Representatives told all staff and lawmakers that they couldn’t have the app on their phones or tablets. Canada and Belgium have also joined the list of countries that have banned the app. The European Union also told its employees last month to remove TikTok from their phones.
India banned TikTok from the country in 2020, saying that it was a threat to “India’s national security and defense.” At the time, more than 200 million people used the short video app in India. TikTok might be worried about bans from different government agencies, but its Chinese owner might be more worried about a possible U.S. embargo.
Reports say that the Biden administration is threatening to ban TikTok unless ByteDance breaks ties with the app and sells it. TikTok has tried many times to show the U.S. government and others that China can’t get into any user data. Oracle has been auditing it and has asked the press and regulators to check out its new Transparency Center, which gives them a look at the app’s moderation rules.
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The company has spent nearly $1.5 billion on the charm offensive campaign in trying to appease the authorities. “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan stated earlier this week.
“The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”