Things seem to get from bad to worse for TikTok. After being exposed by Apple for copying clipboard data and getting banned in India, TikTok is now under the scrutiny of Australian officials, who warned that the app is nothing more than a data collection service disguised as social media.
According to Jenny McAllister, the deputy chair of the Foreign Interference through Social Media, TikTok has been abused by China’s Communist Party, and authorities need to investigate the way the app manipulates user data. At the same time, senator Jim Molan posted on Facebook on Monday that users should be more informed in regards to TikTok practices and that the app should have transparent practices. He added that it’s still too early to consider a ban, but users should be informed and show personal responsibility. As it usually happens with social media these days, the lure of viral content pulls users in, but then the app steals data that people didn’t mean to share.
McAllister added that there have been worrying reports about TikTok manipulating user data and that TikTok should appear before the select committee and respond to the issue.
Meanwhile, Lee Hunter, general manager of TikTok Australia, dismissed all concerns and said that the sources cited by the Australian Government aren’t credible.
TikTok unlikely to get banned, tech expert says
After this news came out, many wondered if Australia would follow into China’s footsteps and ban the app too. However, according to technology commentator Trevor Long, that’s highly unlikely to happen because it would send Australia-China relations on a downhill slope. Besides, TikTok has more than 1.6 million downloads in Australia. However, he added, TikTok’s practices are indeed worrisome and, for those wondering why another app that steals user data is so problematic, the difference is that this time the data ends up in China’s hands, not just the hands of advertisers.
One privacy scandal after another for TikTok
This isn’t the first time this year that TikTok makes headlines for its unethical privacy practices and lack of transparency. In February, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said that TikTok is “fundamentally parasitic” and that the fingerprinting technology they use to track user behavior is truly terrifying and spyware-level.
Then, in March, Apple revealed that TikTok was accessing iOS clipboard, along with 50 other apps. In spite of promising that they would end this practice, iOS 14 beta tests showed that, in June, TikTok still hasn’t taken any measures in this regard. Since users can copy anything on their clipboards, including passwords, social security numbers, and other kinds of sensitive data, the fact that TikTok can access this data anytime is not reassuring.
The last hit came from the Indian Government, who banned TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese apps, for being a threat to national security. Apparently, this has started a trend, and now the US, along with other countries, are investigating. Since TikTok is expected to lose up to $6 billion from the India ban, many wonder if the app will ever manage to recover and regain user trust.