TikTok under scrutiny in Australia over security, data concerns

Australia is scrutinizing the popular Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok for any risks it may pose to users around potential foreign interference and data privacy issues, government sources told Reuters.

Owned by ByteDance, TikTok opened an office in Australia in recent weeks. Offices of both the Home Affairs and Attorney General are discussing TikTok’s operations, the sources said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was “having a good look” at TikTok, which has also fallen under U.S. scrutiny for “national security risks.”

“If we consider there is a need to take further action than we are taking now, then I can tell you we won’t be shy about it,” Morrison told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Friday.

‘Inconsistent with Australian values’: senator

Separately, Labor Sen. Jenny McAllister, the chairwoman of a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference through social media, has identified TikTok as needing further scrutiny, noting 1.6 million young Australians used the app.

“Some of these approaches to moderating content might be inconsistent with Australian values,” she told ABC radio.

“For example, removing material about Tiananmen Square, or deprioritizing material about Hong Kong protests.”

Two of the three directors of the new Australian TikTok operation are senior executives of Chinese parent company ByteDance, company records seen by Reuters show.

TikTok Australia general manager Lee Hunter, who was recruited from Google in June, has written to Australian politicians saying TikTok was “being used as a political football.”

It was “critical you understand that we are independent and not aligned with any government, political party or ideology,” the letter said, noting that TikTok Australia’s data was stored securely in Singapore and the United States.

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