TikTok’s Australian general manager insists the app is “safe” for users despite a ban abroad

The Aussie chief on one of the most popular social media apps has defended the site, saying China does not keep personal data of Australian users.

On Wednesday night, TikTok Australia general manager Lee Hunter told The Project that Australians should feel “safe” on the app, claiming that China has no access to users’ personal data at all because “TikTok doesn’t operate in China”.

“We are a global company,” Hunter said.

For Australians, user data in the US and Singapore is held with strong electronic security to ensure that data is safe.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about what happens on TikTok, but Australians are safe on TikTok.”

It comes as companies around the world have banned the app, and some countries have banned it altogether.

Project sponsor Waleed Ali has grilled the Australian TikTok boss about the security of the apps.  Project / Channel 10
camera iconProject sponsor Waleed Ali has grilled the Australian TikTok boss about the security of the apps. Project / Channel 10 credit: Channel 10
General tiktok
camera iconAgencies around the world have already banned the use of the app. NCA NewsWire/Tim Pascoe credit: News Corp Australia

With the United Kingdom and New Zealand joining the growing list of countries that have issued orders to block the app, government agencies have jumped into blocking the site on employees’ devices, fearing the app could reveal sensitive information.

The site, which allows people to upload videos of up to 3 minutes in length, has grown in popularity over the course of pandemic lockdowns, providing people stuck at home with a form of entertainment.

It is owned by the Chinese company “Bytedance”, but it confirms that there is no information in the possession of the Chinese government because it is an “independent” site.

“Bytedance has its origins in China,” Mr. Hunter admitted to the project.

It is registered outside of China. TikTok was intentionally created outside of China.

“We have staff all over the world including in China, but we are not alone in this. Today I took a look at the privacy policies of some of the largest banks and telecom companies in Australia and they have staff in China.”

The co-host of the project, Waleed Ali, has grown increasingly fond of Mr. Hunter, saying banks don’t collect voice-recognition data like TikTok does.

Senate tiktok session
camera iconTikTok Australia general manager Lee Hunter insists the app is safe for Australians. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage credit: News Corp Australia

“If the Chinese government has access to that, that is a major concern. Are you saying that the Chinese government does not have the legal right within China to access a company that operates within China?” Ali asked.

“We mention what we collect in our privacy policies. We only collect information to give you the best experience on the platform,” Mr. Hunter said.

“I want to be really clear about this: We do not and will not share information with the Chinese government about Australian user data. Make me talk to you here today.”

Ali asked if the Australian app should give access to the data to the Chinese government if they requested it, to which Mr Hunter replied “no”.

“We say no, the data is not kept in China and you can’t access it.”

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