By Lucy Craymer
WELLINGTON (Reuters) -New Zealand said on Friday it would ban TikTok on devices with access to the country’s parliamentary network due to cybersecurity concerns, becoming the latest nation to limit the use of the video-sharing app on government-related devices.
Concerns have mounted globally about the potential for the Chinese government to access users’ location and contact data through ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.
The depth of those concerns was underscored this week when the Biden administration demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes or the app could face a U.S. ban.
In New Zealand, TikTok will be banned on all devices with access to parliament’s network by the end of March.
Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said in an email to Reuters that the decision was taken after advice from cybersecurity experts and discussions within government and with other countries.
“Based on this information, the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand Parliamentary environment,” he said.
Special arrangements can be made for those who require the app to do their jobs, he added.
ByteDance did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Speaking at a media briefing, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand operated differently from other nations.
“Departments and agencies follow the advice of the (Government Communications Security Bureau) in terms of IT and cybersecurity policies … we don’t have a blanket across the public sector approach,” Hipkins said.
Both New Zealand’s defence force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Friday they had already implemented bans on TikTok on work devices.
A spokesperson for the New Zealand Defence Force said in an email to Reuters the move was a “precautionary approach to protect the safety and security” of personnel.
On Thursday, Britain banned the app on government phones with immediate effect. Government agencies in the U.S. have until the end of March to delete the app from official devices.
TikTok has said it believes the recent bans are based on “fundamental misconceptions” and driven by wider geopolitics, adding that it has spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.
Responding to a question about the TikTok bans from Britain and New Zealand, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a regular news briefing on Friday that the two countries should “stop over-extending and abusing the concept of national security, and provide a fair and non-discriminatory environment to companies from all countries.”
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer in Wellington, Lewis Jackson and Renju Jose in Sydney and Josh Ye in Hong Kong; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree, Muralikumar Anantharaman, Edwina Gibbs and Gerry Doyle)