Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Are Aussies ‘safe’ on TikTok?

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The Aussie boss of one of the most popular social media apps has defended the site, saying China does not hold personal data of Australian users.

On Wednesday evening, TikTok Australia’s general manager Lee Hunter told The Project that Aussies should feel “safe” on the app, claiming China has no access to users’ personal data whatsoever because “TikTok doesn’t operate in China.”

“We are a global company,” Mr Hunter said.

“For Australians, the user data is held in the US and Singapore with strong cyber security to make sure the data is safe.

“There are lot of misperceptions around what happens on TikTok, but Australians are safe on TikTok.”

It comes as companies around the world have banned the app, with some countries outlawing it altogether.

Camera IconThe Project host Waleed Aly grilled TikTok’s Aussie boss about the apps safety. The Project/Channel 10 Credit: Channel 10
Camera IconAgencies across the world have already banned use of the app. NCA NewsWire / Tim Pascoe Credit: News Corp Australia

As the United Kingdom and New Zealand join the growing list of countries that have issued orders banning the app, government agencies have leapt to blocking the site on staff members’ devices, fearing the app could expose sensitive information.

The site, which allows people to upload videos up to 3 minutes in length, grew in popularity over the course of pandemic lockdowns, providing those stuck at home with a form of entertainment.

It’s owned by Chinese company “Bytedance,” but it maintains no information is held by the Chinese government because it is an “independent” site.

“Bytedance has it’s origins in China,” Mr Hunter admitted on The Project.

“It is registered outside of China. TikTok has been set up deliberately outside of China.

“We have employees all over the world including China, but we are not alone in that. I had a look today at the privacy policies of some of Australia‘s biggest banks and telcos and they have employees in China.”

The Project co-host Waleed Aly grew increasingly frustrated with Mr Hunter, saying the banks don’t collect voice recognition data like TikTok does.

Camera IconTikTok Australia General Manager
Lee Hunter insists the app is safe for Aussies.
NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Credit: News Corp Australia

“If the Chinese government can access that, that’s a huge concern. Are you saying that the Chinese government don‘t have the legal right within China to access that of a company that’s operating within China?” Aly asked.

“We state what we collect in our privacy policies. We only collect the information to give you the best experience on the platform,” Mr Hunter said.

“I want to be really clear about this: we do not and we will not share information with the Chinese government around Australian user data. That’s really important. I think where we have concerns around data that’s been captured, we’re really transparent about what we collect and why, and it is one of the reasons why I’m here talking to you today.”

Aly asked whether the Australian run app would have to give data access to the Chinese government if they asked for it, to which Mr Hunter replied “no.”

“We say no, the data isn’t held in China and you can’t get access to it.”

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