The dark threat of TikTok: Australian children and soldiers who use the social media app are at risk of being spied on by the Chinese, MP warns

  • TikTok was banned among ADF personnel last month over security fears 
  • Andrew Hastie MP also raised concerns for Australian teenagers using app 
  • He said users’ data was at risk when given out to Chinese companies
  • TikTok said that it stores its data in the US and Singapore, not in China 

Tiktok is a national security threat that could be sharing users’ data with the Chinese government, a federal MP has warned.

The popular social media app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, was banned among Australian Defence Force personnel last month over security fears.

Andrew Hastie, Liberal MP and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, praised that decision and also raised concerns for Australian teenagers whose data could be at risk.

 

China‘s National Intelligence Law of 2017 means the Chinese Government can compel businesses to share information with them,’ he told the ABC’s 7.30.

‘So, I doubt if our information is secure when it’s owned by Chinese companies.’

Mr Hastie, who served in the ADF and is a vocal critic of the Chinese state, said he was worried that users’ information such as their name, age and location could be accessed by the Chinese Communist Party.

‘TikTok is largely used by teenagers but they’re our future leaders… and we need to protect their information long-term,’ he said.

The father-of-two, 37, also expressed fears for his own children, saying: ‘I certainly don’t want my children’s data going to a foreign country who might use it for nefarious purposes.’

TikTok is the international version of Chinese app Douyin where users create and upload short videos and Gifs with a host of functions. 

The app asks users for access to their phone’s camera, microphone contact list and location when they sign up.

The company says it stores its data in the US and Singapore, not China – but experts fear it could still be accessed by the Chinese state. 

Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), told 7.30: ‘It could very well be the case that data is being stored in the United States. 

‘But it’s highly likely that same data is being accessed by Beijing-based engineers in order to improve the app.’ 

Daily Mail Australia has contacted TikTok for comment. 

In October, US Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton wrote a joint letter to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire warning that the app could be used ‘to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.’

In January, the US Army announced the app would be banned on all government devices after fears arose about its Chinese-owned parent company using the app to gather data.

The ADF the followed suit, banning the app from all work phones.

It comes after a cyber expert claimed that TikTok is a magnet for paedophiles and Australian children are not safe.

In a dire warning to parents, ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean told Daily Mail Australia the popular app was ‘not safe’ for kids due to grooming, bullying and privacy fears.

Users of the app, which is now more popular than Snapchat, only have to be 13 years old to sign up – and can be contacted by anyone unless they make their profile private.

Even then, anyone can request to look at their pictures and videos, and even pretend to be another child.

‘TikTok is not a safe app and there are many concerns, not the least bullying and grooming by predators,’ Ms McLean, a former Victorian police cyber safety specialist of 27 years, said.

‘Any app that allows communication can be used by predators.’

The cyber safety expert warned TikTok has been known to fail to remove suspicious accounts even after being warned they could be run by a child groomer.

‘TikTok does not have the same safety sessions as some of the more well-known apps and routinely do not remove accounts that have been flagged as potentially a predator,’ she explained.

‘Paedophiles like to watch kids sing and dance so they can take the videos and share them.

‘The data gathering is a huge concern and if the government is worried then it is not a place for kids.’ 

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