Experts say the TikTok ban on Australian government-issued phones should be extended to other apps TikTok

Experts say the federal department’s ban on TikTok on Australian government-issued phones is reasonable, but should also apply to other social media apps.

A growing number of Australian government agencies have begun banning popular app ByteDance amid security concerns over the company’s ties to China and the Chinese government’s access to data about TikTok users.

The Canberra Times reported that nearly half of the nearly 140 federal government agencies have banned the app from government-owned devices.

While most of the opposition’s focus has been on TikTok alone, the Home Office is reviewing the security risks of all social media platforms and their respective governments at the request of Home Secretary Clare O’Neil. settings. The report must be submitted in the first quarter of this year.

Experts say TikTok should not be the only focus of bans from workplace devices.

“I don’t think it’s as easy as TikTok – it’s bad; American companies — good,” said Australian National University cyber security researcher Professor Vanessa Teague. “I think they’re all bad.”

Teague said that while Apple and Google are increasingly giving users the power to limit what information is given to social media apps — such as location and contact information — the apps can and do collect a lot of information about users.

“It’s fine if you turn off location permission, but if you then upload a photo or video that includes your GPS coordinates… you’ve told them where you are, so that’s better, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem.”

Dr Abu Barkat Ullah, an IT and systems researcher at the University of Canberra, also warned of the risks of all applications. He said that while it makes sense to limit which apps can be installed on work devices, people will still provide a lot of information through their own personal devices.

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“We have to be very careful about personal devices, what data we expose to outsiders,” he said.

Guardian Australia has reached out to TikTok for comment. The company’s director of public policy for Australia and New Zealand, Ella Woods-Joyce, said in a February submission to the Senate inquiry into foreign influence through social media that the company should not be a political football.

“We are proud of our heritage and it is important to note that we are no different from other global companies and claims to the contrary are not supported by evidence,” he said.

O’Neil ruled out a broader ban on the app.

“TikTok is one of the most widely used apps in Australia, especially loved by young Australians. It’s not on the table at the moment,” he told the ABC in February.

The Liberal, Labor and Green parties, as well as Pauline Hanson and Bob Katter, are all active on the app. One of the app’s most prominent federal MPs, Labour’s Julian Hill, said he does not use the app on his government-issued phone.

Teague and Ullah said the focus should be on educating Australians about privacy beyond TikTok, not just whether an app should be banned.

“Sometimes I say we drive without a seat belt because everyone uses it without knowing the challenges behind it [it]Ullah said.

“I don’t think they’ll really solve the problem unless they solve the problem of privacy and security for Australians, which means strong data protection laws, better education, encouraging end-to-end encryption and the end. to this nonsense that encryption is only for pedophiles, Teague said.

“They really need to change their whole direction and start encouraging people to use technologies that protect our data.”

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