The New Zealand parliament has decided to ban TikTok from all parliamentary devices due to increasing security concerns associated with the app on an international level.
On Friday, the parliamentary service informed the country’s MPs that the video-sharing app owned by China, TikTok, would be blocked from all parliamentary devices by the end of this month, and they were told that “the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand parliament environment” via email.
“The decision to block the TikTok application has been made based on our own analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally,” the email reads.
New Zealand’s decision follows similar rulings by some of its major western allies. Earlier in the week, the UK government announced that TikTok would be banned, effective immediately, from ministers’ and civil servants’ mobile phones. The US, Canada, and the European Commission already have bans in place.
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, and concerns surrounding its security have centered on whether the Chinese state could access data recorded by the app’s billion users, or manipulate the algorithm to push pro-China content. TikTok has denied its data or algorithms can be accessed or manipulated by the Chinese government, saying it has not been asked for data and would refuse any future requests.
In recent months, however, as relationships with Beijing have been strained by the shooting down of Chinese surveillance balloons, a number of western countries have introduced bans on the app on parliamentary devices – with the US going a step further, to consider an outright ban on the app. In early March, the White House said it supported legislation that would allow the administration to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies completely if they pose national security threats.
The New Zealand ban does not specifically cover MPs’ personal phones, but those phones must have the app uninstalled in order to access any parliament applications.
“A number of New Zealand MPs use TikTok to post political videos and commentary. Among the most prolific users are Te Pāti Māori leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi, as well as Act party leader David Seymour. The Māori party had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication. A spokesperson for Act clarified that the party’s TikTok account ‘is run from a personal phone free of parliamentary information. We have been taking this precaution for some time.'”