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Data security, censorship concerns flagged as TikTok opens local office

An expert has raised concerns over how consumer data is being used by social media application TikTok, after the Chinese-owned company announced plans to open an Australian office.

TikTok, which has more than 1.6 million Australian users according to Roy Morgan, is largely used by teenagers and features lip-syncing and comedy skits that appear in 15-second bursts. The platform, owned by tech giant ByteDance, this week appointed its first local general manager, Lee Hunter, and several former Airbnb and Google executives specialising in government policy and advertising to its local division.

Newly appointed TikTok Australia general manager Lee Hunter.

Newly appointed TikTok Australia general manager Lee Hunter.Credit:Rhett Wyman

But Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Strategy Policy Institute, said that there are still concerns about the platform’s use of data and censorship (removal of content that is sensitive to the Chinese government and others) that need to be addressed.

“There are many apps that most people with smartphones have that harvest a scary amount of data from users and send that information back to servers around the world, which is concerning. But what makes this even more concerning that the data is being sent back to Beijing and … China has a whole suite of national security laws that effectively remove any firewall,” Mr Ryan said.

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