New Zealand to ban TikTok on devices linked to Parliament, cites security concerns

Special arrangements can be made for those who require the app to do their jobs. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY - New Zealand said on Friday it will ban TikTok on devices with access to the parliamentary network because of cyber security concerns.

It becomes the latest nation to limit the use of the video-sharing app on government-related devices.

Concerns have mounted globally about the potential for the Chinese government to access users’ location and contact data through ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. 

The depth of those concerns was underscored this week when the Biden administration demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes or the app could face a US ban. 

In New Zealand, TikTok will be banned on all devices with access to Parliament’s network by the end of March.

Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said in an e-mail to Reuters that the decision was taken after advice from cyber security experts and discussions within government and with 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. 

Special arrangements can be made for those who require the app to do their jobs, he added. 

Responding to a question about the TikTok bans from Britain and New Zealand, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a regular news briefing on Friday that the two countries should “stop over-extending and abusing the concept of national security, and provide a fair and non-discriminatory environment to companies from all countries”.

ByteDance did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Speaking at a media briefing, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand operated differently from other nations. 

“Departments and agencies follow the advice of the (Government Communications Security Bureau) in terms of IT and cyber security policies... we don’t have a blanket across the public sector approach,” Mr Hipkins said. 

Both New Zealand’s Defence Force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Friday they had already implemented bans on TikTok on work devices. 

A spokesman for the New Zealand Defence Force said in an e-mail to Reuters that the move was a “precautionary approach to protect the safety and security” of personnel.

On Thursday. Britain banned the app on government phones with immediate effect.

Government agencies in the US have until the end of March to delete the app from official devices.

TikTok has said it believes the recent bans are based on “fundamental misconceptions” and driven by wider geopolitics, adding that it has spent more than US$1.5 billion (S$2.02 billion) on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations. REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.