Despite the huge growth of TikTok this year, the Chinese-owned app’s future remains uncertain following various investigations over data privacy concerns.
The Australian Government is questioning whether TikTok should be allowed to operate due to the risk it may pose to users around potential foreign interference and data privacy issues. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Melbourne radio station that the government was “having a good look” at TikTok. The US has also raised concerns over “national security risks,” with President Donald Trump hinting that the US Government might potentially ban TikTok.
TikTok opened an office in Australia in June this year. TikTok’s Australia general manager Lee Hunter said in a statement that “TikTok does not share information of our users in Australia with any foreign government, including the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity. We always welcome the opportunity to meet with policymakers to talk about TikTok, including the steps we’re taking to make it an even safer and more creative place.” TikTok insists that TikTok Australia’s data was stored securely in Singapore and the United States.
According to a report, Hunter also wrote a letter to Australian Government saying TikTok was “being used as a political football”.
Separately, Labor Senator 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 use 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 deprioritising material about Hong Kong protests,” she added, referring to student protests in Beijing in 1989 and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong over the past year.
With TikTok already banned in India and TikTok itself having recently pulled out of Hong Kong due to tensions by Chinese intervention in the region, TikTok’s future remains unknown.