Albanese government is reportedly considering keeping Australian user data from social media platforms such as TikTok onshore. Picture: Stefani Reynolds / AFP
TikTok has been banned on all government devices over fears the Chinese app could be used to spy on officials.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has signed off on the ban after a security review by the Department of Home Affairs, The Australian reported.
TikTok will not be allowed on any phone or computer used by politicians and public servants.
An announcement will be made by the government later this week.
The move follows a similar decision by the US and UK governments.
The US is also considering a general ban on the app, meaning regular citizens would not be allowed TikTok on their phones either.
Such a ban is not being considered here and Australians will still be allowed to use TikTok on their phones.
ByteDance, which owns TikTok, has denied its app could be used to spy on people.
TikTok said in a statement: “If confirmed, we are extremely disappointed by this decision which, in our view, is driven by politics, not fact.
“We are also disappointed that TikTok, and the millions of Australians who use it, were left to learn of this decision through the media, despite our repeated offers to engage with government constructively about this policy.
Anthony Albanese made the call after a security review. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Mariuz
“There is no evidence to suggest that TikTok is in any way a security risk to Australians and should not be treated differently to other social media platforms.”
On the weekend the AFR reported Albanese government is considering keeping Australian user data from social media platforms such as TikTok onshore to avoid fears of political interference from China, according to the report.
The government is contemplating adopting a similar plan to TikTok’s proposal to negotiate with US authorities in Project Texas. This would involve TikTok spending $1.5bn to keep US user data in servers local and open up to third-party inspectors to avoid a ban on the app.
The Department of Home Affairs in Australia has been investigating onshore data storage requirements for social media platforms, known as data localisation or data residency. The AFR report indicated a requirement for local user data to be stored in Australia would not solve national security concerns around TikTok, but it is one of several options being considered.
The attorney-general is expected to ban the use of TikTok on government-issued mobile devices in Australia soon. However, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has previously indicated that the government will not ban TikTok outright. Meanwhile, critics have cast doubt on whether Project Texas will protect US user data from political interference by the Chinese Communist Party, regardless of TikTok’s assurances.
Lee Hunter, TikTok Australia’s general manager, said that the accusations levelled against the company “aren’t based on evidence.”
At a Home Affairs conference last month, Secretary Mike Pezzullo said the agency was “seriously looking at data localisation” for certain datasets, according to technology policy publication InnovationAus.com. However, tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Meta have submitted their opposition to general data localisation requirements. The report suggests that while the government is considering data localisation for social media platforms, it is also examining other options to deal with national security concerns around TikTok and WeChat, such as their data collection practices and China’s intelligence laws, which compel companies and citizens to cooperate with the government.
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