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New Zealand Bans TikTok on Government Tech Due to Security Risks

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New Zealand announced on Friday that it would block TikTok from any devices with access to its parliamentary network given cybersecurity concerns, joining the ranks of other countries that have restricted the use of the video-sharing app on government-linked devices.

Concerns have mounted globally about possible Chinese government access to users’ location and contact data through ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.

The depth of those concerns was underlined this week when the Biden administration asked TikTok’s Chinese owners to pull their stakes or the app could face a US ban.

In New Zealand, TikTok will be banned on all devices with access to Parliament’s network by the end of March.

The parliamentary department’s chief executive, Rafael Gonzalez Montero, said in an email to Reuters that the decision was made after advice from cybersecurity experts and discussions within the government and with other countries.

“Based on this information, the service has decided that the risks are unacceptable in the current New Zealand parliamentary environment,” he said.

He added that special arrangements could be made for those who need the app to perform their jobs.

ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Speaking at a media conference, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand operates differently from other countries.

“Departments and agencies follow (Bureau of Government Communications Security) advice with regard to information technology and cyber security policies… We don’t have a blanket cover via the public sector approach,” Hipkins said.

Both the New Zealand Defense Force and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Friday that they have already implemented bans on TikTok on work devices.

A New Zealand Defense Force spokesman said in an email to Reuters that 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. US government agencies have until the end of March to remove the app from official devices.

TikTok said it believes the recent bans are based on “fundamental misconceptions” and driven by broader geopolitics, adding that it has spent more than $1.5 billion on strict data security efforts and rejecting allegations of espionage.

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