National Security

AUDIT: TikTok bans haphazard and inconsistent

March 6, 2023

Monday 6 March 2023

An audit of every federal government department and agency via Senate questions on notice has revealed a haphazard and inconsistent approach to banning the social media app TikTok from government-issued devices.

Twenty-five government departments and agencies ban the app outright, 12 partially ban the app, and 11 permit it. A further five agencies either failed to answer or directly answer the question.

I have been calling on the government to act to protect Australians since July 2022 when TikTok admitted to me in correspondence that our user data is accessible in China and therefore subject to the Chinese government’s national intelligence laws. I shared that correspondence with the Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security immediately.

In the eight months since all the government has done is seek advice about the risks posed by the app. Since then, our closest security partners and likeminded jurisdictions including the United States, Canada, Denmark and the European Union have banned the app from government devices.

Australia could have led the world like we did banning Huawei from our 5G network in 2018, but we are now falling dangerously behind.

The risks posed by this app have been apparent for some time, particularly since their July 2022 admission about user data, and the revelations in December that employees of TikTok in China used the app to spy on journalists writing critical articles about the company and lied about doing so.

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

The millions of Australians who also use the app also need protection. We cannot allow a company beholden to the Chinese Communist Party to have unregulated access to the data of millions of Australians. The Senate Select Committee on Foreign Interference Through Social Media will examine this wider national security risk and make recommendations for further action this year.

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