6 March 2023

Banning TikTok in government agencies has gone viral

| Chris Johnson
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TikTok is being banned by a growing number of APS agencies. Photo: File.

America has done it, Canada too. It’s caught on in Europe, and even parts of Asia have gone down a similar path.

Banning TikTok for public servants in government agencies seems to be trending these days.

The controversial Chinese-owned video app is sparking national security fears around the globe.

US federal employees were banned from using the app late last year, with authorities going further last week demanding all agencies remove TikTok from their systems within a month.

A US congressional committee has also backed legislation that would give the US president the power to actually ban the app nationwide.

That’s a long way from becoming law, but while congress ruminates over it, the White House is focussing on government departments and their staff.

Canada has banned the app from all government-issued devices, with the ruling coming into effect this week.

The Canadian Government said TikTok “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security”, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau using a press conference to clearly state serious security risks connected to the app.

“This may be the first step. This may be the only step we need to take,” he said.

The European Commission previously announced similar new rules for its employees and the European Parliament, with a ban enforced from 15 March.

India has imposed a broad public ban on the app, as have a number of Asian nations.

READ ALSO Public service getting increasingly ticked off with TikTok

With such frenzied activity over the short-form video app, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, there are calls for similar action in Australia.

ByteDance has suspected ties to the Chinese communist regime and has been criticised for being able to access personal information through the app.

To date, Federal Government agencies in Australia have been making their own calls about using TikTok.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has publicly stated she wasn’t considering imposing a blanket ban across the entire Australian Public Service.

That position might change in light of what other governments are doing around the world.

Her own department, however, has already banned the use of the app, as has the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Defence, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Finance, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, and the Education Department have also banned the app.

The National Disability Insurance Agency and the Australian Electoral Commission have joined in on the ban.

A host of agencies within bigger departmental portfolios (such as the Australian Public Service Commission within PM&C and ASIO with DFAT) are also impacted by the bans.

Other agencies are planning to follow suit, some are imposing partial bans, while about a dozen have so far made no plans at all to ban staff use of TikTok.

READ ALSO New cyber security office and laws headed our way

Shadow Cyber Security Minister James Paterson has described the government’s approach as “haphazard and inconsistent” and said Australia should follow the example of other like-minded countries.

He said the time for “seeking advice” was over and an action plan should now be implemented.

“The risks posed by this app have been apparent for some time,” Senator Paterson said.

“The Albanese government must now finally act. TikTok should be banned on all federal government devices unless exceptional circumstances exist.”

Senator Paterson has been dogged in pursuing government agencies over TikTok and grilling department heads during senate estimates.

TikTok denies that Chinese government officials have access to users’ data, and it has been critical of all decisions from various governments to ban the app.

But cases have been exposed in the US and China of journalists being tracked by ByteDance workers.

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I mean.. you wouldn’t expect any employee to be on social media on a work device? Wouldn’t expect checkout operators at Coles using TikTok on the POS, would you? 🤦🏻‍♂️

Err, yes. Politicians and government agencies are all over social media, so lots of staff need to be on it just to know what their boss just said they’d do as well as what the public are saying. This is most of what ‘media monitoring’ is these days.

Not all staff. Just the media staff. They do t make as much of the staff as you’d expect.
I wouldn’t expect John in policy to have a need to be on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook on a work device at all.

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