Australian Government Orders TikTok Data Audit

( )- Australia’s Department of Home Affairs announced that it would be looking into the data harvesting practices of both TikTok and WeChat.

According to the Syndey Morning Herald, the investigation into TikTok was prompted by growing concerns that Chinese TikTok employees can access the personal user information of Australians.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has given the Department of Home Affairs until next year to come up with a range of options on how to tackle social media companies with “questionable data practices.”

O’Neil told the Sydney Morning Herald that millions of Australians are accessing an app in which the usage of their data is “questionable.” Describing it as “a modern security challenge,” O’Neil said as yet no country “has found the easy solution for managing this.”

In late June, Bloomberg reported that ByteDance confirmed that some company employees based in China can access the personal information of TikTok users in the United States.

TikTok’s admission was in a letter responding to nine US Republican senators who had accused the popular video app and its parent company, ByteDance, of monitoring American citizens. The senators contacted ByteDance demanding to know if Chinese-based TikTok employees had access to Americans’ user data.

In their June 27 letter to ByteDance, the Republican senators cited a BuzzFeed report that TikTok’s US user data had been accessed by company engineers in China. The senators accused TikTok and ByteDance of using that access to surveil American citizens.

In a June 30 letter responding to the senators, ByteDance CEO Shou Zi Chew said that Chinese employees who have cleared internal security protocols can access certain information from US TikTok users. However, he said this user data is not shared with the Chinese government and is subject to “robust cybersecurity controls.”

In response to Australia’s move, TikTok claimed that there is nothing unique about the amount of data its app collects. The company reiterated that its user data is stored in Singapore and the United States and the company has been “clear and vocal” about its access controls to secure user data.