No evidence of TikTok misusing users' data, says Australian PM

WASHINGTON • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said there was no evidence that Chinese-owned TikTok had abused the data of its hundreds of millions of users.

"We have had a good look at this, and there is no evidence for us to suggest...that there is any misuse of any people's data," he told the Aspen Security Forum meeting in Aspen, Colorado, on Tuesday.

"There are plenty of things that are on TikTok that are embarrassing enough in public, but it's that sort of social media device," he said via videoconference, chuckling.

However, he said that Australians need to be "very aware" that TikTok and other social media platforms, including United States-owned firms, reap enormous amounts of information on users and subscribers.

The difference with TikTok, he said, is "that information can be accessed at a sovereign state level", a reference to Chinese firms' legal obligation to share data with state intelligence services if they want it.

"But I think people should understand - and there's a sort of buyer-beware process - there is nothing at this point that would suggest to us that security interests have been compromised."

Citing a national security threat, US President Donald Trump on Monday gave TikTok's parent ByteDance six weeks to sell the app to an American firm or find itself shut down.

Mr Trump said the US government should get a "substantial portion" of the sale price of TikTok.

Reuters reported last week that some investors are valuing TikTok at about US$50 billion (S$68.4 billion), citing people familiar with the matter.

Microsoft is in talks with ByteDance, and any deal could include TikTok's Australia business.

But Mr Morrison downplayed the immediate threat.

"There is no reason for us to restrict those applications at this point. We'll obviously keep watching them."

THAT SORT OF SOCIAL MEDIA...

There are plenty of things that are on TikTok that are embarrassing enough in public, but it's that sort of social media device.

AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON, saying there was no evidence that TikTok had abused the data of its users. "There is no reason for us to restrict those applications at this point," he added.

Nevertheless, he stressed that people "need to understand where the extension cord goes back to".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2020, with the headline 'No evidence of TikTok misusing users' data, says Australian PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe