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The Australian government has banned TikTok on public service devices for fear of China

The Australian government has banned TikTok from all public devices, claiming the app poses a “significant protective security risk” to the Commonwealth.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus announced on Tuesday that he had authorized a mandatory directive to ban the TikTok social media app from any device issued by a Commonwealth department or agency.

State and territory governments are expected to enact the same ban, while a number of high-profile politicians have said they will scrap the app entirely.

TikTok Australia’s management has claimed it was unaware of the ban before it was reported in the media, denying claims that it poses a security risk to the government.

The Australian government’s move now means that all Five Eyes countries have issued similar bans on TikTok.

Australian Computer Society (ACS) President Dr Nick Tate welcomed the government’s announcement.

“It is encouraging to see the government acting quickly on the advice of cybersecurity experts and our intelligence community,” he said.

“The security implications of TikTok on government and personal devices have been a concern for some time, so it’s important to take proactive steps.

“As we have seen over the past year, cybersecurity is a critical and rapidly evolving field and at ACS we work with government agencies and ministers to ensure that Australian data is held as securely as possible.”

TikTok is owned by China-based company ByteDance. Concerns about its use center on China’s National Intelligence Act, which requires all organizations and citizens to “support, assist and cooperate with national intelligence agencies” and “protect national intelligence agencies’ secrets.”

The presence of this law has raised fears that Chinese authorities could demand access to TikTok users’ data from around the world.

Ban incoming

Dreyfus said he authorized the ban on advice from intelligence and security agencies, and that it would take place through the Protective Security Policy Framework.

He said the ban will take effect “as soon as possible” and exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The ban applies only to Commonwealth-issued devices and does not extend to the personal devices of government officials or the general public.

The government order states that the presence of the TikTok app on government devices “poses a significant protective security risk to the Commonwealth,” and that Commonwealth entities must now prevent the app from being installed and remove it from existing government devices unless a “legitimate business reason”.

These legitimate business reasons include whether TikTok is needed to accomplish a work goal, to conduct compliance and enforcement with laws and regulations, or to reach a target audience for marketing or public relations purposes.

Waivers for these reasons will be approved by the Chief Security Officer and a series of measures must be put in place, including the use of a separate, stand-alone device and generic email addresses.

A number of state and territory governments have already announced they will follow Commonwealth orders, while Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews will also completely delete his popular TikTok account.

Last to act

Australia is the latest of the Five Eyes countries to enact such a ban on TikTok, after the United Kingdom and New Zealand took similar measures last month.

Lee Hunter, managing director of TikTok Australia, has said the company was not aware of the ban before it appeared in the media on Tuesday morning.

“We are extremely disappointed with this decision,” Hunter told ABC Radio.

“In our view, this is driven by politics and not facts. And we are also disappointed that TikTok and the millions of Australians who use it every day will find out about this decision through the media, despite repeated efforts on our part.”

The ban was welcomed by the opposition, with shadow cybersecurity minister James Paterson criticizing the government for waiting for the ban after raising concerns in July last year.

“Had the government taken action when I first called on them to do this, Australia would have led the world in tackling this cybersecurity threat, as we did when we banned Huawei from our 5G network in August 2018,” said Paterson.

“Instead, we are the last Five Eyes member to act.”

The Greens have criticized the ban, saying it is the start of an “endless game of online whack-a-mole” that misses the major risk.

“We are in a data security and privacy crisis and we are fixated on one platform,” said Greens digital rights spokesperson David Shoebridge.

“Banning TikTok from government devices is a publicity stunt that obscures the fact that our data is being exploited by any company that can get their hands on it.”

In other TikTok news, the company has been fined $23 million (£12.7 million) after Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office found it had breached data protection laws by using the data of children under the age of 13 without the consent of the parents.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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