TikTok has told Australian lawmakers it accepts the increased scrutiny it receives because of its Chinese origins but it does not want to become a “political football”.
In a submission to the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, TikTok defended its data policies and security, insisting the Chinese government could only legally access local users’ data through a bilateral agreement known as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
TikTok’s submission to the committee states: “The Chinese Government or law enforcement would need to send the evidence disclosure request through the relevant MLAT process … To date, we have not received any MLAT requests in respect of Australian user data, nor have we received requests to censor Australian content from, (sic) the Chinese Government.”
TikTok on the weekend brokered a deal with Oracle to partner on its US operations in the hopes of appeasing President Donald Trump who demanded TikTok parent ByteDance sell its local operations to a US company or be banned.
Trump is reportedly concerned by China’s access to user data collected by the app. The US military has already banned the use of TiKTok by its members.
In Australia, Senators are currently examining the potential of nation states to exert foreign influence through social media. TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Google have all been asked to provide evidence to the committee.
In TikTok’s submission, released today, the company outlines some of the steps it has taken to address security and transparency concerns. It says all Australian user data is stored on servers
located in the United States and Singapore.
“We understand that with our success comes responsibility and accountability. The entire industry has received scrutiny, and rightly so. Yet, we have received even more scrutiny due to the company’s origins,” TikTok’s local GM writes in the submission.
“Whilst we don’t want TikTok to be a political football, we accept this scrutiny and embrace the challenge of giving peace of mind by providing even more transparency and accountability.”
The Committee is not due to present a final report until 2022.