December 28, 2023
Senator James Paterson
Shadow Minister for Home Affairs
Shadow Minister for Cyber Security
Liberal Senator for Victoria
Thursday 28 December 2023
INFORMATION COMMISSIONER TIKTOK INQUIRY WELCOMED
It is welcome that the Information Commissioner has agreed to an Opposition request to launch an inquiry into TikTok Australia for its mass privacy breach revealed this week.
TikTok’s practices of harvesting the private contact information, browsing history and shopping habits of Australian internet users apparently without consent is deeply concerning and highly likely to be unlawful. Especially troubling is that the data of non-TikTok users is allegedly being collected as part of this scheme.
This conduct would be unacceptable from any company but is particularly alarming given TikTok is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party and is required under China’s intelligence laws to share information with Chinese government intelligence agencies.
These latest revelations add to a litany of misconduct by TikTok and its parent company Bytedance including using the TikTok app to spy on journalists, suppressing content critical of the Chinese Communist Party and seeking to mislead the public about Bytedance’s extensive links to the Chinese government. TikTok must finally come clean and demonstrate full co-operation and compliance with Australia's regulatory authorities and not repeat the obfuscation we have seen previously from this company when facing scrutiny.
Independent research has demonstrated how TikTok is being used right now to spread pro-Hamas propaganda and antisemitism, and is undoubtedly putting its thumb on the scale in other ways that run counter to Australia’s values and interests.
While this inquiry is welcome it does not absolve the Albanese government of its inaction on TikTok. Home Affairs and Cyber Security Minister Clare O’Neil has been sitting on two reports recommending action to protect Australians from TikTok: one from her own department and a bipartisan Senate committee report.
There can be no more delays or excuses for their failure to act. The Albanese government must legislate to protect Australians from TikTok in 2024, and take proactive steps to prevent other problematic companies from illegally harvesting Australians’ data in a similar manner in the future.