The NSW government is considering banning TikTok on all public sector devices

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The New South Wales government is considering banning public sector workers from using TikTok on work devices and is considering seeking advice from federal cybersecurity agencies amid concerns over the social video app’s ties to China.

As the federal government considers the security of the app, the NSW Electoral Commission has confirmed that software – including TikTok – cannot be downloaded onto work phones without prior authorisation.

The state government does not yet have an overarching policy on downloading and using the app on department devices, but Guardian Australia understands this is now being reviewed.

Related: TikTok bans on Australian government-issued phones should be extended to other apps, experts say

Currently, NSW departments and authorities are allowed to decide their own course of action.

Almost half of all federal agencies have reportedly banned the app on state-owned devices in recent months, which has been criticized by federal opposition for a lack of a consistent and across-the-board response to the app’s usage.

The Home Office will this month complete a review of the security risks of all social media platforms and the correct government settings for Secretary Clare O’Neil.

While privacy and data security is a concern for all social media apps, TikTok and fellow China-based app WeChat were concerned with how data could be accessed under China’s national security law.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hinted this week that the UK could join the US and Canada in banning the app from government devices, saying he would take “all necessary steps” to ensure safety.

The NSW government has started talks with the Australian Signals Directorate’s Australian Cyber ​​Security Center about the app, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

“The NSW Government is aware of this issue and is currently working with the ACSC,” a government spokesman said.

“The NSW government has no overarching policy banning TikTok from government devices. Every agency has social media policies and procedures that govern how social media apps are used on work-issued devices.”

The state-owned agency – Cyber ​​Security NSW – has advised all users to be mindful of security and privacy when downloading an app onto a corporate device.

“Cyber ​​Security NSW is continually reviewing guidance and developing products for NSW government agencies on workplace systems and apps,” the spokesperson said.

“Cyber ​​Security NSW will maintain a vigilant approach to cyber security.”

The NSW Electoral Commission would not make “detailed public comment” on its cybersecurity plans, but confirmed staff were banned from downloading the app without express authorisation.

The agency works with Cyber ​​Security NSW, the Commonwealth’s task force to ensure election integrity, and the ACSC.

NSW Labour’s digital spokeswoman Yasmin Catley said the coalition had “failed to provide overarching guidance and vowed to fix it if Labor forms a government in two weeks’ time.

“Any future NSW Labor government will work with our federal government colleagues to respond to specific concerns,” she said.

Associate Professor of National Security at the University of Canberra, Dr. Michael Jensen, believed that the federal review would likely result in a ban on government devices in Commonwealth departments, with limited exceptions, and states would likely follow.

“I think that in general they will pay attention to what is happening at the national level,” he said.

Lee Hunter, general manager of TikTok Australia, said TikTok is not a Chinese company and insisted it is a “global” entity, storing Australian users’ data in Singapore and the US.

“The Chinese government cannot compel another sovereign nation to provide data stored on that nation’s territory,” he said.

“We have, and will continue to do so, proactively engage with governments at all levels on areas of common concern, and we are always available to answer their questions.”

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