The popular Chinese video-sharing app TikTok has been banned from all devices that can connect to the New Zealand Parliament’s network, according to the legislature’s chief executive.
New Zealand has become the latest country to follow the United States’ lead and restrict its officials’ access to TikTok due to data security concerns. The UK government banned British ministers and civil servants from using the app, which is owned by Beijing-based tech conglomerate ByteDance, earlier this week.
Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, the chief executive of New Zealand’s parliamentary service, stated on Friday that the risks of the country’s MPs having TikTok installed on their phones “are not acceptable.”
“The Parliamentary Service has informed members and staff that the app TikTok will be removed from all devices with parliamentary network access,” he said.
Gonzalez-Montero stated that the decision was made “based on our own experts’ analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally.”
The chief executive stated in a separate letter to MPs, which was seen by the media, that lawmakers should delete TikTok from their devices by March 31. Those who do not comply risk losing access to the parliament’s network, according to Gonzalez-Montero.
Simon O’Connor, a National Party member and co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), called the decision to ban the app “a good one.”
“For some time, I – and IPAC as a whole – have had serious concerns about data privacy,” O’Connor told CNN. He also claimed that TikTok’s previous responses to his questions about how the platform handled data were “unsatisfactory.”
The ACT party, which has been actively promoting its message via the Chinese app, 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’ve been doing this for quite some time.”
ByteDance has repeatedly denied Western spying allegations, claiming that the Chinese government is unable to access data from its more than 1 billion users and has never requested it. Beijing has accused the United States of unfair competition by “suppressing” TikTok and “spreading misinformation about data security.”