TikTok under scrutiny in Australia over security, data concerns

Up to 1.6 million young Australians use the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 20 July 2020

TikTok under scrutiny in Australia over security, data concerns

  • Owned by Bytedance, TikTok opened an office in Australia in recent weeks

SYDNEY: Australia is scrutinizing the popular Chinese-owned social media TikTok platform for any risks it may pose to users from around potential foreign interference and data privacy issues, government sources said.
Owned by Bytedance, TikTok opened an office in Australia in recent weeks. Offices of both the Home Affairs and Attorney-General are discussing TikTok’s operations, the sources said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was “having a good look” at TikTok, which has also fallen under US scrutiny for “national security risks.”
“If we consider there is a need to take further action than we are taking now, then I can tell you we won’t be shy about it,” Morrison told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Friday.
Separately, Labor Senator Jenny McAllister, the chairwoman of a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference through social media, has identified TikTok as needing further scrutiny, noting 1.6 million young Australians used the app.
“Some of these approaches to moderating content might be inconsistent with Australian values,” she told ABC radio.
“For example, removing material about Tiananmen Square, or deprioritizing material about Hong Kong protests,” she added, referring to student protests in Beijing in 1989 and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong over the past year.
Two of the three directors of the new Australian TikTok operation are senior executives of Chinese parent company ByteDance, company records seen by Reuters show.
TikTok Australia general manager Lee Hunter, who was recruited from Google in June, has written to Australian politicians saying TikTok was “being used as a political football.”
It was “critical you understand that we are independent and not aligned with any government, political party or ideology,” the letter said, adding TikTok Australia’s data was stored securely in Singapore and the United States.
Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared with an impersonator in a video posted on the highly popular social media app.


Facebook creates unit devoted to financial services

Updated 11 August 2020

Facebook creates unit devoted to financial services

  • The Novi wallet — set to launch when Libra coins debut — promises to give Facebook opportunities to build financial services into its offerings
  • Facebook Financial will handle management and strategy for all payments and money services across the platform

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Monday said it has created a new unit devoted to financial services to harmonize payment systems on its platform.
The new group, called Facebook Financial, will be headed by e-commerce veteran David Marcus, who was a president at PayPal before joining the leading social network six years ago.
Marcus is one of the creators of Facebook’s digital money network Libra, and heads the team building a Novi digital wallet tailored for the currency.
The Novi wallet — set to launch when Libra coins debut — promises to give Facebook opportunities to build financial services into its offerings, offer to expand its own commerce and let more small businesses buy ads on the social network.
Facebook Financial will handle management and strategy for all payments and money services across the Silicon Valley company’s platform.
“Today various payments features exist across our apps, and we want to make sure decision making, execution and compliance are not fragmented,” Facebook said in an email reply to an AFP inquiry.
“We want to be able to give people the ability to make a payment however they choose — debit, credit or Libra digital currencies.”
Noting security concerns posed by Facebook’s yet-to-be-launched digital currency Libra, the Federal Reserve last week revealed plans for its own instant payments system.
FedNow will provide households and businesses with instant access to payments, for wages, government benefits or sales, without waiting days for checks to clear, the Fed said.
The system, which is not due to launch for two to three years, “will be designed to maintain uninterrupted 24x7x365 processing with security features to support payment integrity and data security,” the central bank said.
Facebook’s announcement last year of plans to design the Libra cryptocurrency and payments system raised immediate red flags for global finance officials who expressed a barrage of withering criticism about the security and reliability of a private network.