TikTok app ban on MPs’ phones amid security concerns

The TikTok app has been effectively banned on the phones of New Zealand MPs, with the Parliamentary Service chief executive citing that the “risks are not acceptable” as similar moves are made across the globe.

Overnight, Britain said it would ban the Chinese-owned video app on government phones with immediate effect – a move that follows other Western countries over security concerns.

Early today, an email from Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, leaked to Newstalk ZB, informed politicians that similar moves would be made in New Zealand. 

TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny worldwide due to concerns that user data from the app owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance could be accessed by the Chinese government, threatening Western security interests.

Gonzalez-Montero’s email stated that Parliamentary Service had been examining the use of the TikTok application on corporate devices following “recent decisions made internationally to ban use of this application”.

With agreement from the Parliamentary Service Commission, Parliamentary Service had decided to block the TikTok application on all Parliamentary Service-managed devices from Friday, March 31.

TikTok could still be accessed through a web browser.

The app must also be uninstalled from personal phones that also have Parliament applications.

“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.

“Based on this analysis the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand Parliament environment.”

In a statement to NZME, Gonzalez-Montero confirmed the decision saying it was based on “advice from our cyber security experts”.

Arrangements could be made for those who required the app to perform their democratic duties, he said.

“This decision has been made based on our own experts’ analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally.”

Today’s ban follows warnings issued to MPs in recent years.

Stuff recently reported at least nine organisations do not authorise the use of the app on government devices, including the Defence Force, which in November last year ordered staff to wipe it from their phones.