(Sydney) Australia announced on Tuesday that it would ban members of its government from using the Chinese app TikTok on their work devices, joining a series of similar rulings in Western countries due to security fears.
The decision was taken on the advice of Australian intelligence services, and will be put into practice “as soon as possible”, Justice Minister Mark Dreyfus said.
Australia is the latest country in the so-called Five Eyes alliance to ban members of its government from TikTok, following the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.
Similar measures have been taken in France, the Netherlands and within the European Commission.
Mr. Dreyfus said waivers could be granted on a “case-by-case basis” and subject to “appropriate security measures”.
For Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, this measure is “obvious”.
Mr. Ryan added that Beijing “would likely perceive this as unfair treatment and discrimination against a Chinese company”.
At the center of fears is a 2017 Chinese law that requires local companies to hand over personal data that would be relevant to national security upon request from the authorities.
Beijing maintains that this law poses no threat to ordinary users.
The Chinese government “has never and will not ask any company or individual to collect or hand over data from overseas in a way that violates local laws,” a doorman said in March. -spokesman of Chinese diplomacy, Mao Ning.
The company’s Australian spokesperson, Lee Hunter, said TikTok would “never” share data with the Chinese government.
“No one is working harder to make sure that’s never possible,” he told Australian broadcaster Channel Seven.
TikTok had nevertheless acknowledged in November that some employees in China could access European user data, and admitted in December that employees had used this data to stalk journalists.
The short video sharing app has over a billion active users worldwide, and is especially popular with younger generations. Many Australian government departments had previously sought to grow their presence on TikTok to reach younger audiences.
Tiktok is owned by Chinese group ByteDance, which has a similar but separate app for China.
Earlier this year, the Australian government also announced that it would remove Chinese-made CCTV cameras from politicians’ offices, also for security reasons.