Fears over the use of Australian TikTok users’ data could soon be allayed, with the Chinese-owned app in talks with Microsoft over a possible sale.
President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday that in 45 days, TikTok would be shut down in the US over concerns about its ownership and how users’ information is harvested.
Australian security agencies fear users’ private data is currently being sent to authorities in Beijing, who are world leaders in data collection, AI and facial recognition software.
Although a sale to Microsoft will essentially mean data will be sent to a US tech firm instead of the Chinese Communist Party, leading Australian cyber expert Dr John Lee said Australian TikTok users will be far better off.
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A ban on the popular Chinese video app TikTok is appears inevitable in Australia, after US President Donald Trump (pictured) announced he will shut down the digital platform in America
‘Under Chinese law no data is considered private. The Government can access any data it deems fit for any reason,’ Dr Lee told Daily Mail Australia.
‘But in Australia and the US there is legislation which limits the extent to which governments can access data.
‘It doesn’t really matter if we like or trust Xi Jinping or Donald Trump, it is about how their institutions operate in those countries.
‘To put it bluntly, Xi Jinping can do whatever he wants with the data and how the laws are written and Trump can’t.’
If the sale goes through, it will alleviate the national security concerns of the Australian government who are currently holding a clandestine investigation into all Chinese social media platforms.
President Trump has declared September 15 the date by which TikTok needs to have been sold to a US company, or ‘it is going to be out of business in the US’.
‘It can’t be controlled for security reasons by China, it’s too big and too invasive,’ he added.
TikTok (pictured) is one of the most popular apps in the world and had 315 million downloads in the first quarter of the year
HOW DOES TIKTOK WORK?
- Users post videos of themselves and broadcast them on the app
- Anyone can find these videos and post comments on them
- It also allows you to message that person privately
- Some of the most popular videos are watched more than 10 million times
- Each TikTok video is generally 15 to 60 seconds long
- The videos are typically set to music, often showing the user dancing, doing a trick, or lip-syncing
Dr Lee said the president was not bluffing.
‘It is a serious issue. The timing of it may be politically inspired but the substance of it isn’t politically inspired,’ the former government adviser said.
‘It is an issue in America that both sides of politics acknowledge.’
But while talks are continuing between TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and Microsoft, China’s authoritarian regime may not be willing to hand over the 15-second video app which has soared in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
The platform currently has 1.6 million users in Australia – most of whom are under 25.
‘It seems pretty clear that from September 15, they won’t be allowed to operate in the US. If that is the case they might as well realise their commercial value,’ Dr Lee said.
‘From the point of view of the parent company, there will certainly be a strong commercial incentive to offload it to Microsoft if possible.
‘But the hiccup could be the Chinese government who might not like the optics of it being sold to an American company.
Australian security agencies fear user’s private information is being sent to authorities in Beijing, who are world leaders in data collection, AI and facial recognition software. (pictured, women taking a selfie in Sydney on July 22)
TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions. Pictured: A video shared by soldiers
‘It would be quite humiliating to the Chinese Communist Party if TikTok were sold and that might be the only reason why it may not happen.’
TikTok has denied claims the app is being used by Beijing to keep tabs on anyone who criticises the totalitarian regime.
‘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,’ the company told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity’.
TikTok has denied claims the app is being used by Beijing to keep tabs on anyone who criticises the totalitarian regime
WHAT IS TIK TOK?
TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions.
TikTok’s tagline is ‘Make every second count’.
It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.
TikTok is known in China as Douyin where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available around the world in 2017.
Douyin is still the version of the app used in China, available to download separately to TikTok.
Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app Musical.ly, also with headquarters in China.
Most children use the app to film themselves lip-syncing to chart hits.
It offers users a raft if colourful modification and editing tools including overlaying music, sound, animated stickers, filters and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos.
The Beijing based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $75 billion (£58 billion).