There are calls for a TikTok ban as Australians are being warned to delete the popular TikTok app from their devices after it was discovered by cyber security experts that the app user’s sensitive information is being sent back to China. While we might expect social apps to track info about us, the level of information being sought by the popular app is frightening manyt.

The app that got us through our darkest pandemic days with trending dance videos, dog videos, makeup tutorials and a plethora of life hacks and tips (vabbing, anyone?), users have believed TikTok to be harmless scrolling fun. However, however recent allegations suggest the complete opposite.

It was reported that security firm Internet 2.0 cracked the source code for the popular social sharing platform to uncover how data is being targeted without the app user being aware. And the discovery is so alarming, that the government has been advised to administer a TikTok ban.

Don’t be fooled, TikTok isn’t all fluffy puppies – the app is reported to be deceiving its users, calling for a TikTok ban. via GIPHY

Is TikTok a modern-day Big Brother?

Downloaded by more than 7.5 million Australians, the Beijing-backed TikTok app has the ability to tap into your smartphone calendars, and your contacts list, it even scans your device’s ID and hard drive to monitor the other apps you have installed on your phone. Potentially, there’s nothing this app doesn’t know about you.

And if that’s not enough to make you think twice about opening the app, it’s also checking your device location at least once an hour and will continue seeking data from your contacts even if permission is denied, according to the cyber security firm report.

So what’s the danger? Apart from someone potentially flipping through my 16,000 dog photos? A world leader in data collection, artificial intelligence and facial recognition software, there are fears TikTok is being used by Beijing to spy on young people in the western world.

Tiktok ban
Calls for a TikTok ban: Users of the popular social platform are being subjected to having their personal information harvested and sent to China. Source: Bigstock

TikTok, please explain…

Internet 2.0 CEO, Robert Potter took TikTok to task over the security concerns, accusing its parent company ByteDance of being misleading and deceptive.

“Their source code is at odds with their public statements about how their app functions.”

TikTok was quick to say all user data for the region is hosted in Singapore and only accessed by a small number of employees who need it to maintain the site.

“The IP address is in Singapore, the network traffic does not leave the region and is categorically untrue to imply there is a communication with China”, the company said in a statement.

That said, the Internet 2.0 team had identified that on Apple smartphones, the app was connecting with servers in China – however, they couldn’t say what information was being sent.

It was also reported that the TikTok mobile app gathers far more information from users than is needed for the app to work. The bottom line is that TikTok is not being transparent about the data it requested and subsequently where it’s being sent. The report has been sent to Australian and American politicians.

While TikTok says the information it gathers is in line with standard industry practices and is securely encrypted, it’s important to remember that since the company is based in China, it is governed by Chinese laws. Robert Potter claims that under Chinese law, the company would be forced to hand over any data if requested by the Communist Party.

Which is a worry, right?

TikTok ban called as Australians urged to reconsider their TikTok use

And so now, it’s time for our Australian government to step up. Liberal Senator James Paterson called upon the government to act and enforce a TikTok ban. He says:

“It was already worrying enough to recently learn user data is being accessed in mainland China.

“It is frankly alarming to discover exactly what data is being collected from TikTok users, and how much of it is unnecessary.”

“It’s hard to think of an innocent reason excessive data is being collected especially given it is obtainable by the Chinese government.”

“The Albanese government must stop sitting on its hands and act to protect Australians’ cybersecurity and privacy”

TikTok ban
It’s time for our Australian government to act. Is a TikTok ban coming? Source: Bigstock

So, what now for TikTok users?

Though a TikTok ban has not yet been set, TikTok users should proceed with caution. An encryption expert has said the app can gather financial and payment information, messages, photos and videos, audio and sound recordings – even your web browsing history. The ONLY way to ensure the app isn’t collecting your data, is to get rid of it.

And while deleting the app seems easy enough to do, there’s no doubt that the fallout of a Tiktok ban will be huge. Guaranteed we’ll stop our late-night scrolling and get a whole lot of better-quality sleep not watching ASMR fridge restocking videos, but so many small businesses have relied on the platform – and continue to do so – to freely share their content and advertise to people the last few years to help keep themselves afloat during these hard economic times.

If you want to continue using TikTok, it’s believed information sharing with TikTok can be limited through your phone settings and is more restricted on personal computers than on the mobile app.

We’d love to hear your thoughts – will you be deleting TikTok from your devices, would you be all for a TikTok ban?

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Author

South Australian mum and self proclaimed foodie, Lexi can most days be found in the kitchen, apron tied firm and armed with a whisk or wooden spoon!

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