In response to global concerns regarding the security and potential misuse of user data by TikTok, the Australian government has recently announced a ban on the app for all devices issued by the government. The prohibition, declared by Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, has been heeded by security entities, who have advised all federal public employees to delete the app immediately. While a few of Australia’s state governments are considering a possible ban, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), which is government-funded, has only imposed restrictions on non-business entities at present.
Australia now joins a growing number of countries that have either limited or completely disallowed the usage of TikTok, primarily among official institutions up to this point. The intelligence community has shown visible concerns about the app, and members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing alliance, consisting of Australia, Canada, the US, the UK, and New Zealand, have all prohibited the usage of the app on government-owned devices.
The question now arises as to whether these worries are applicable to everyday users, particularly younger people who use the app to connect and interact with friends. While regular users may be less vulnerable to disruption, the surveillance of government workers could also extend to their family and acquaintances, making a widespread ban a possibility.
The CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, recently appeared before American senators to address their concerns, but this did not assuage worries of cybersecurity entities. As the debate over the app’s safety continues, it is likely that more countries will follow suit in banning or restricting its use.
It is important to note that while TikTok’s countermeasures have largely highlighted how other social media platforms collect user data, there are fears that the data gathered by TikTok could be handed over to Chinese authorities and potentially used to harm individuals in a position to affect policy decisions.
Given this concern, it is understandable why the Australian government has taken steps to ban the app on government workers’ devices. There is little need for agency personnel to have the app on their professional gadgets, and the ban reflects the intelligence community’s growing worries about the app.
The debate over TikTok’s safety is not limited to Australia, however. The Axios team has created a map that shows the increasing prevalence of TikTok restrictions across the world as geopolitical tensions and concerns about data security continue to rise. The US government is now considering a widespread ban on the app, which will be decided on during the upcoming Easter holiday. If the US government does decide to ban the app, it is likely that many other countries will follow suit.