The Australian government said it was moving to protect its data and systems, citing “heightened concerns in the Australian community about the security of apps like TikTok.” It also noted that it had consulted security agencies on the matter. Australia joins a growing list of countries tightening scrutiny of China’s tech giants and their products. The US has threatened to ban TikTok over concerns about how it handles user data, while India has already blocked the app from use in the country.
Australia is now following suit with this latest announcement as part of an ongoing effort by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government to distance itself from Beijing’s influence in domestic affairs. TikTok has denied wrongdoing, saying that user data is not shared with Chinese authorities and all content stored within Australia is subject to local law enforcement requests. This stance seems unlikely to appease those concerned about the app’s privacy issues.
The ban comes after the U.S. government imposed restrictions on TikTok, citing national security concerns and accusations that Beijing has used the app to collect user data for its purposes. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously said he was looking into a similar move but had just now taken action. It’s still being determined how far-reaching the ban will be, as it only applies to federal government-owned devices.
However, if other countries follow suit, it could be a significant blow for TikTok in terms of public perception and market share. The company has faced considerable scrutiny over privacy issues and allegations of censorship by Chinese authorities in recent months, prompting some users to delete their accounts or switch allegiances to competitors like Instagram Reels or Thriller. As lawmakers worldwide scrutinize TikTok operations more closely, we may see similar bans occur across multiple countries in the coming days and weeks ahead.
The news comes amid reports of security concerns about the Chinese-owned social media platform, which has become increasingly popular among young people in Australia.TikTok faces international backlash over its data collection practices and potential links to the Chinese government. The United States has banned federal employees from using it on their phones. In Australia, the app was one of several identified by Home Affairs as raising “heightened risk” due to potential links with foreign governments or espionage activities.
Albanese said he had agreed to ban TikTok from users across all federal departments while awaiting results from an ongoing review into the security risks posed by its application programming interface (API). He also called on state and territory governments to follow suit and adopt similar measures until further evidence emerged regarding any alleged misuse of user data collected through the app.
The tit-for-tat trade tensions between the two countries have caused a strain on their relations. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been adamant in his criticism of China’s increasing aggression, while Chinese President Xi Jinping has accused Australia of undermining regional stability. As the rift widened, both sides suspended direct ministerial contact, and diplomatic visits were canceled, including the visit by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne to Beijing in December 2020. In response to these rising tensions, Canberra is strengthening its defense ties with allies such as Japan and India.
It is also boosting domestic production of military hardware and looking for new sources of critical technologies and resources outside China’s supply chain. These steps could further deteriorate bilateral relations with Beijing if not managed carefully, so both sides must work towards finding common ground or risk an even more profound destabilization of this critical relationship.