Australia bans TikTok on government devices

Technology Tuesday 04/April/2023 18:22 PM
By: DW
Australia bans TikTok on government devices
(Photo Credit: DW)

Canberra: Australia said on Tuesday that it will ban TikTok on all government devices due to national security concerns.

The country has now joined a growing list of Western nations cracking down on the Chinese-owned app.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said the ban would be enacted "as soon as practicable," and exemptions would only be granted on a case-by-case basis and with appropriate security measures in place.

China's 2017 law on data privacy

TikTok is a company based in Beijing and is owned by ByteDance Ltd. Typically, the app, which has more than 1 billion users, is used to share lighthearted videos.

Initially, many governments saw the app as an efficient tool to connect with a younger demographic, which is seen as hard to reach through traditional media channels.

However, cyber security experts have repeatedly warned that the app could be used to harvest user data that is then shared with the Chinese government.

Fergus Ryan, an analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute called the ban was a "no-brainer."

In 2017, China enacted a law requiring local firms to provide personal data to the state if it is relevant to national security.

"It's been clear for years that TikTok user data is accessible to China," Ryan told the AFP news agency.

Beijing has vehemently denied these allegations.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in March that China "has never and will not require companies or individuals to collect or provide data located in a foreign country, in a way that violates local law.

Growing list of countries banning TikTok

Australia joins France, Belgium and the European Commission in announcing a ban on the app. With Australia's ban, all members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which consists of Australia, Canada, the United States, Britain and New Zealand, have banned the app from government devices.

In 2020, India was the first country to impose a nationwide ban of TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps.

TikTok's disappointment

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese agreed to the ban after completing a review conducted by the Home Affairs department, Australian media reported.

Lee Hunter, TikTok's Australia general manager, said that the company was disappointed to learn of the ban through the media.

He told the Australian newspaper The Age that the company had made "repeated offers to engage with the government constructively about this policy."

Hunter said there is "no evidence" to suggest that the app is a security risk to Australains and "should not be treated differently to other social media platforms."

Previously, TikTok has alleged that the ban being initiated by Western nations is rooted in xenophobia.

However, last December, the company conceded that the app had been used to collect user data to spy on journalists.

Earlier this year, Australia announced that, due to security concerns, Chinese-made surveillance cameras would be stripped off from the offices of politicians.