Aussies look into TikTok, Weibo and WeChat over data privacy concerns
The Australian federal government is expected to investigate Chinese social media platforms including TikTok, Weibo and WeChat, looking for evidence that the firms are funneling Australian members’ information, including face and behavioral biometric data, to the Chinese government.
Executives at TikTok, the flashpoint for drama, have said they are independent of China’s dictatorial Communist Party, and do not share member data with the political leaders at home.
An article in The Sydney Morning Herald claims that the investigation is “likely” to happen, however, it will not be not be a formal public probe. That difference could give the prime minister, Scott Morrison, some political distance from results, if any, that might anger China, an important trading partner.
The move enables Morrison, viewed as an authoritarian populist, to build his support among anti-immigrant and anti-Chinese voters. It is not uncommon in nationalist circles for Weibo and WeChat to be singled out as platforms where conversations transpire mostly in Chinese, not English.
Last week, federal officials in the United States said TikTok poses a security risk and could be banned domestically. Likely triggering the anger was word that an unknown number of fake registrations for a disappointing Trump public appearance in Tulsa, Okla., involved TikTok accounts.
TikTok also has been sued for violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act by performing face scans of its members — including minors — without their permission.