New Zealand has moved to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from all parliamentary devices, citing the “unacceptable” level of risks posed by the popular video app.
Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said on Friday that TikTok—owned by Beijing-based firm ByteDance—would be removed from “all devices with access to the parliamentary network.”
However, he said that “those who require the app to perform their democratic duties” may be granted an exemption from the ban, according to a statement released by the New Zealand Parliament.
“This decision has been made based on our own experts’ analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally,” Gonzalez-Montero stated.
“Based on this information, the [Parliamentary Service] has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand Parliamentary environment,” he added, without elaborating on the app’s risks.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has declined to provide further details regarding the security risks associated with TikTok, saying that he has not received a briefing on the matter, according to local media.
“I’d expect that departments and agencies, including the Parliament, would consider the advice of the GCSB and making those decisions,” he said, referring to the Government Communications Security Bureau.
A TikTok spokesperson told The Epoch Times by email that the company was disappointed with the New Zealand Parliament’s decision, saying that it 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. We believe it is important that decision making is based on fact, not misinformation,” the spokesperson said.
“We have written to Parliamentary Service, offering to engage and seek an explanation of their decision and we look forward to working with them to address any issues identified in their analysis,” they added.
Sensitive Government Data
New Zealand is the latest country to ban TikTok from parliamentary devices, following similar actions by the United States and Canada. The United Kingdom on Thursday also banned TikTok from government devices.
The UK’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden said the decision was based on an official review which concluded that “it is clear that there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms.”
“Social media apps collect and store huge amounts of user data, including contacts, user content, and geolocation data. On government devices, that data can be sensitive,” he said.
Meanwhile, TikTok has claimed that it could be facing a total ban in the United States unless its parent company, ByteDance, sells its stake.
The U.S. regulator for foreign investments in America, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, issued the warning to TikTok, the company told Reuters on Wednesday.
TikTok has more than 100 million users in America, with many earning an income from the app. Some lawmakers and security experts have described the app as “a spy balloon into your phone.”
In line with actions taken by global leaders, the White House on Feb. 20 ordered TikTok purged from all government devices and systems to keep U.S. data safe.
The Epoch Times previously revealed that ByteDance had been employing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members in its highest ranks.
The company, like many organizations in China, is bound by the regime’s National Intelligence Law, which requires all organizations and citizens to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.”
TikTok has said that users’ personal data collected by the app can be remotely accessed in China but denied it had or would ever provide the data to the CCP. The promise has done little to assure security experts who warned against trusting the Chinese regime.
Arthur Herman, a senior fellow at the U.S. think tank the Hudson Institute, previously told The Epoch Times that the app harvests an enormous amount of data that can be used to picture, in the case of the United States, “where American vulnerabilities lie.”
Its algorithms can also turn the app into a “brainwashing app” by filtering content disliked by the CCP, Herman said.
Caden Pearson and Lily Zhou contributed to this report.
This report was updated with TikTok’s statement.