MPs have been told to remove the Chinese app from their phones by the end of the month
The popular Chinese video-sharing app TikTok has been banned from all devices that can access New Zealand parliament’s network, the legislature’s chief executive has announced.
Wellington has become the latest capital to follow the US lead and restrict the access of its officials to TikTok over data security concerns. Earlier this the week, the UK government forbid British ministers and civil servants from using the app, which is owned by Beijing-based tech conglomerate ByteDance, effective immediately.
On Friday, the chief executive of New Zealand’s parliamentary service, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said that the risks of the country’s MPs having TikTok installed on their phones “are not acceptable.”
“Parliamentary Service has informed members and staff the app TikTok will be removed from all devices with access to the parliamentary network,” he said.
According to Gonzalez-Montero, his service made the decision “based on our own experts’ analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally.”
Exceptions from the ban are possible for those who require the app to “perform their democratic duties,” he added.
In a separate letter to the MPs that was seen by the media, the chief executive said that lawmakers should delete TikTok from their devices by March 31. Those who fail to comply might lose access to the parliament’s network, Gonzalez-Montero warned.
National Party member and co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), Simon O’Connor, described the decision to ban the app as “a good one.”
“I – and IPAC as a whole – have had serious concerns about data privacy for some time,” O’Connor told the CNN. He also claimed that TikTok’s replies to his previous inquiries about how the platform handled data had been “unsatisfactory.”
The ACT party, which has been actively using the Chinese app to promote its message, told The Guardian that it had been anticipating the move. The party spokesman explained that its TikTok account “is run from a personal phone free of parliamentary information. We have been taking this precaution for some time.”
ByteDance has repeatedly rebuffed Western spying claims, saying that the Chinese government couldn’t access data from its more than 1 billion users and never ever asked for it. The authorities in Beijing have been accusing the US of unfair competition by “suppressing” TikTok, as well as of “spreading disinformation about data security.”