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A message from House speaker Trevor Mallard sent to all parties last week warned MPs to refrain from using the social media platform on their parliamentary phones and devices as “it could pose a security risk”.
“The parliamentary service strongly recommends you do not use TikTok on your parliamentary service devices as it could pose a security risk where data on your devices could be accessed by ByteDance (TikTok’s owner) and the Chinese government,” the parliamentary directive read, according to Australian media reports.
The speaker also recommended MPs delete TikTok from their official phones, but added that if MPs choose to still keep it, they should check settings to “make sure you are comfortable with the permissions you have granted” and “remove its ability to access your location”, The Guardian reported, quoting the memo.
Several reports in the past have warned that the platform is harvesting vast amounts of personal data from its users. The concerns over data privacy led to the app being banned by the Donald Trump administration in the US, while several other countries like India followed suit.
The latest revelation over the data privacy concerns had come in the form of a Buzzfeed report in June which said that, based on leaked audio from internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees from ByteDance were repeatedly able to access private data of American users.
TikTok denies its data can be accessed by any external entities and claims it has robust security arrangements in place.
Around 1 million people in New Zealand are believed to be TikTok users, while the app boasts of a billion active users globally.
Many New Zealand politicians have a presence and a huge following on the platform, including those from the Maori Party and the right-wing libertarian Act party.
This is not the first time lawmakers have been warned against the app. MPs were previously advised to delete TikTok in 2020. The Kiwi government also prohibits some of its officials, like police officers, from using TikTok.