New Zealand has announced that it will ban TikTok on devices with access to the country’s parliamentary network due to cybersecurity concerns, making it the latest country to restrict the use of the video-sharing app on government-related devices. This move follows concerns globally about the Chinese government’s potential to access users’ location and contact data through ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.
The depth of these concerns was highlighted 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 that the decision was made based on advice from cybersecurity experts and discussions within government and with other countries. He added that special arrangements can be made for those who require the app to do their jobs.
ByteDance did not respond immediately to a Reuters request for comment. Speaking at a media briefing, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins explained that New Zealand follows a different approach from other countries. “Departments and agencies follow the advice of the (Government Communications Security Bureau) in terms of IT and cybersecurity policies … we don’t have a blanket across the public sector approach,” Hipkins said.
Both the New Zealand defence force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced on Friday that they had already implemented bans on TikTok on work devices. A spokesperson for the New Zealand Defence Force said 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, and government agencies in the US have until the end of March to delete the app from official devices. TikTok has stated that it believes the recent bans are based on “fundamental misconceptions” and driven by wider geopolitics, adding that it has spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to a question about the TikTok bans from Britain and New Zealand, saying 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.”