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TikTok takes Senate question about Chinese access to data ‘on notice’

A TikTok representative has appeared before the Senate select committee on foreign interference through social media, answering a range of questions regarding foreign access to the data of Australian citizens.

user icon David Hollingworth
Tue, 11 Jul 2023
TikTok takes Senate question about Chinese access to data ‘on notice’
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Greens Senator David Shoebridge was tweeting during the session, recording in brief TikTok’s answers to the questions presented to the company.

However, the company rep could only take on notice a question regarding if any Chinese employee has ever accessed user data.

“TikTok has taken on notice to provide the number of times Australian user data has been accessed by employees in China,” Shoebridge said in one of a string of posts. “This is important information we should be seeking from all platforms [that] have access to Australian users’ data which may be accessible by foreign entities.”


That question follows a line of questions that went to just what level of access the Chinese Communist Party may have to ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, and in turn, TikTok’s vast trove of data.

The questions began with TikTok admitting that employees in China could access user data and make changes to the platform’s algorithms. The company also admitted that employees in China are subject to Chinese security laws, like any other company operating in China, such as “banks and telcos”.

“The chair moves on quickly from those comments,” Shoebridge noted before going on with his critique of TikTok’s answer.

“This raises important and serious questions around the broad access to data that China may have under its national security laws, and this needs to be interrogated if we are serious about transparency and foreign interference instead of just playing politics with the issue,” Shoebridge said.

TikTok then told the committee that it has never been asked to give access to data and would not comply if so asked, before explaining the “multiple levels of security measures” the company has in place to keep a check on access to such information.

Before taking the last question on notice, TikTok explained that the most sensitive data was also encrypted.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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