New Zealand joins US push to restrict TikTok use on official phones with

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By Chris Lau

New Zealand will ban TikTok on all devices with access to its parliament by the end of this month, becoming the latest country to impose an official bar on the popular social media platform owned by a Beijing-based technology conglomerate.

Led by the United States, a growing number of Western nations are imposing restrictions on the use of TikTok on public entities, citing national security concerns.

Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, chief executive of New Zealand’s Parliamentary Service, said in a statement Friday that the risks of keeping the video-sharing app “are not acceptable.”

“This decision has been made based on our own experts’ analysis and after discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally,” he wrote.

“On the advice of our cyber security experts, the Parliamentary Service has informed Members and staff that the TikTok app will be removed from all devices accessing the Parliamentary network,” he added.

But those who need the app to “perform their democratic duties” can get an exemption, he said.

CNN has reached out to TikTok and its Beijing-based owner ByteDance for comment.

IIn an email to members of parliament seen by CNN, Gonzalez-Montero told lawmakers that the app would be removed from their corporate devices on March 31, after which they would not be able to download it again.

He also instructed lawmakers to uninstall the app from their private devices, adding that failure to comply could render them unable to access the parliamentary network.

New Zealand lawmaker Simon O’Connor, who also co-chairs the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), told CNN he welcomed the decision, calling it “a good one”.

“I – and IPAC as a whole – have had serious concerns about data protection for some time,” he said, adding that TikTok’s response to his previous inquiries about data security had been “unsatisfactory”.

IPAC is a cross-border group formed by lawmakers from democratic countries that is focused on relations with China and is often critical of Beijing’s leaders.

New Zealand’s decision came on the heels of similar actions already taken by its Western allies, despite the country’s track record of taking a more cautious approach when it comes to dealing with Beijing, in part because China is such a significant trading partner.

The US, UK and Canada have ordered the removal of the app from all government phones, citing cyber security concerns.

All three countries are part of the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance, which cooperates with each other in gathering and sharing intelligence. Australia and New Zealand make up the five.

The Chinese video-sharing app is also blocked in all three of the EU’s main government institutions.

Tik Tok has become one of the world’s most successful social media platforms and is hugely popular among younger people.

The short video sharing app has more than 100 million users in the US alone.

New Zealand’s latest move came hours after TikTok acknowledged the Biden administration had threatened to ban its operations nationwide unless its Chinese owners agreed to spin off their stake in the social media platform.

US officials have expressed fears that the Chinese government could use its national security laws to pressure TikTok or its parent company ByteDance to hand over personal information about TikTok’s US users, which could then benefit Chinese intelligence operations or influence campaigns.

China has accused the US of “unreasonably suppressing” TikTok and spreading “false information” about data security.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the US Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month that he feared the Chinese government could use TikTok to influence public opinion in the event China invaded Taiwan, the self-governing island over which Beijing claims sovereignty. although he never ruled it.

TikTok has repeatedly denied posing any security risk and has said it is willing to work with regulators to address any concerns they may have.

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CNN’s Michelle Toh contributed to this story.

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