It’s official, if you work for the Government your days of doom scrolling TikTok are over, and I for one think this is a great thing on several levels.
Today, Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced that “after receiving advice from intelligence and security agencies”, his department had issued a “mandatory direction” to “prohibit the TikTok app on devices issued by Commonwealth Departments and agencies”.
The ban comes as security agencies express concerns about the potential access or influence of the Chinese Government over the TikTok user data. In many ways it’s similar to the Turnbull Government’s ban on Huawei being allowed to operate 5G networks in Australia.
Similar in that there’s no actual evidence of any mis-use of personal or app data. And hilarious in that Huawei communications equipment still today powers much of the 3G and 4G networks used in Australia, just like millions of Aussies who have their own phones will keep scrolling on TikTok.
In an interview on the EFTM podcast last week, I suggested to the Australian General Manager of TikTok Lee Hunter that his app should in fact be banned, I said “Now, unpopular opinion and don’t hate me for having it, but I think TikTok should be banned on government devices.”
Mr Hunter’s reply might surprise many, he said “Well, you preface it as an unpopular opinion. I actually agree with you. My, my personal thoughts are I can see why”, going on to say “I used to work for YouTube many years back in the day, and I remember when YouTube was banned from the wifi and connections and networks from, from governments. And it was more about just wasting time in their day. And now we’re in a different scenario. It’s not unfamiliar to me, but I think your point is well made, in-that it should apply to any social media or messaging application. And when we’ve had conversations with the departments in the government that are responsible for issuing this advice, that’s exactly what they say too“
One of the arguments used against TikTok is that a software engineer working for ByteDance (TikTok’s Parent Company) who is a Chinese citizen, living in China may be able to access our data no matter the fact it’s not stored in China – on behalf of the Government.
So – what does that say about a software engineer working for Instagram or Facebook and living in China – could they not access user data also for the Government?
TikTok has less data about you than Facebook
The real outrage here is the concern over your data, and the fact we don’t share the same concern with other social media platforms.
If that engineer for Facebook checks in on the data from our Politicians in Canberra on their Government issued phones using Facebook or Instagram, they can find out their exact location. Where they are, where they stay when in Canberra, where they Live when at home in their electorate.
A TikTok engineer can narrow down your Location by WiFi at best, but the TikTok app does NOT ask for your GPS location, where as Instagram and Facebook do.
So, why aren’t all social networking platforms banned from government devices?
An important distinction on future hypocrisy
If our politicians aren’t using TikTok, can we get an assurance they won’t just buy a burner phone for the office to make content, check content, view content?
Because that would be handing over the exact same info.
And, can we get an assurance that political parties won’t be using TikTok for electioneering and marketing during future elections? That would be a bit hypocritical too?
A better experience for Australians.
I for one welcome this future where our politicians are not on TikTok, should keep the app a fun and entertaining place, without the Canberra bunch.
A blanket ban on TikTok for all Australians?
Won’t happen. Can’t happen.
Technically very challenging, and would step into some dangerous “internet filter” grounds that no politician wants to hit on.
And would result in some 5-7 million current Aussie users of TikTok getting very upset with the Government, no politician wants that percentage of people against them.