Australia joined a long list of Western countries banning TikTok on official devices today. Attorney General Mark Dreyfus announced the move, saying the ban will be implemented “as soon as possible.”
In the announcement, Dreyfus said the decision was made “after advice from intelligence and security agencies.”
In addition, Australia has also made changes to its Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF), noting that TikTok poses a security threat due to its data collection practices.
“The TikTok application poses significant security and privacy risks to non-corporate Commonwealth entities due to extensive collection of user data and exposure to extrajudicial directives from a foreign government in violation of Australian law,” the directive said.
Authorities said using the short video app for “legitimate business reasons” and on a separate “standalone device” will be allowed.
Australia’s move is in line with neighboring New Zeland and other members of the Five Eyes collective in the US, UK and Canada – all of whom have banned the use of TikTok on official devices. Separately, the EU and Belgium have also banned ByteDance’s app on the devices of the authorities.
In response to the Australian government’s decision, TikTok expressed disappointment in this politically motivated move.
“We are extremely disappointed by this decision, which we believe is dictated by politics, not facts. We are also disappointed that TikTok, and the millions of Australians who use it, have been made aware of this decision through the media, despite our repeated offers to engage constructively with the government over this policy.”
“Again, we emphasize that there is no evidence that TikTok poses a security risk to Australians in any way and should not be treated any differently than other social media platforms. Our millions of Australian users deserve a government that makes decisions based on facts and treats all businesses fairly, regardless of country of origin,” said Lee Hunter, General Manager, TikTok Australia and New Zealand in a statement.
Last month, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the US Congress in a grueling five-hour session. During the hearing, Chew tried to reassure lawmakers that Chinese authorities have no access to US users’ data.
“Let me say 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 TikTok US or face an embargo. Meanwhile, TikTok is conducting a $1.5 billion charm offensive under “Project Texas” to appease US authorities and allay their doubts about data transparency.
The story has been updated with TikTok’s response.