Australia joined a long list of western countries banning TikTok on official devices today. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced the move and said the prohibition will be implemented “as soon as practicable.”
In the announcement, Dreyfus said that the decision was taken “after receiving advice from intelligence and security agencies.”
Additionally, Australia also made changes to its Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) noting that TikTok poses a security threat because of its data collection practices.
“The TikTok application poses significant security and privacy risks to non-corporate Commonwealth entities arising from an extensive collection of user data and exposure to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflicts with Australian law,” the directive said.
The authorities said that it will allow the use of the short video app for “a legitimate business reason” and on a separate “standalone device.”
Australia’s move is in line with neighbor New Zeland and other Five Eyes collective members the US, the UK, and Canada — all of which have banned TikTok’s usage on official devices. Separately, the EU and Belgium have also prohibited the ByteDance-owned app on the devices of authorities.
In response to the Australian government’s decision, TikTok said that it is disappointed in this politically motivated move.
“We are extremely disappointed by this decision, which, in our view, is driven by politics, not by fact. We are also disappointed that TikTok, and the millions of Australians who use it, were left to learn of this decision through the media, despite our repeated offers to engage with government constructively about this policy.”
“Again, we stress that there is no evidence to suggest that TikTok is in any way a security risk to Australians and should not be treated differently to other social media platforms. Our millions of Australian users deserve a government which makes decisions based upon facts and who treats all businesses fairly, regardless of country of origin,” Lee Hunter, General Manager, TikTok Australia and New Zealand said in a statement.
Last month, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the U.S Congress in a grueling five-hour session. In the hearing, Chew tried to assure lawmakers that Chinese authorities don’t have access to U.S. users’ data.
“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” he said.
ByteDance is under pressure from the Biden administration to sell off TikTok US or face an embargo. Meanwhile, TikTok is on a $1.5 billion charm offensive under “Project Texas” to appease the U.S. authorities and squash their doubts about data transparency.
The story has been updated with TikTok’s response.