the Chinese government can probably access your data

TikTok is in hot water again. Recordings of internal meetings obtained by BuzzFeed News revealed that Chinese employees of the short-form video platform’s parent company, ByteDance, were still able to access data from the United States despite promises that they would not. It is reasonable to assume that Australians’ data is within their reach as well.

So should you, perhaps as one of the millions of platform-addicted Australians, care personally about where your data goes? Most likely.

It’s old news to most that many companies try to collect as much data as possible about each of us at any given time. From companies you know – like Google and Facebook’s parent company Meta – to data brokers you’ve never heard of – like Acxiom or Quantium buying and selling massive amounts of information – they’re all trying to make money by selling access to certain groups of people.

When you use an online service, when you swipe your rewards card, when you walk past a digital billboard, you leave behind digital breadcrumbs that are reverse-engineered to create a virtual representation of you, usually in the purpose of selling you things.

For many, this is disturbing. But the contradiction of modern life is that we also accept that it happens to us – although it is disputed to what extent our consent to be monitored and profiled is both informed and voluntary. After all, let’s be honest, it’s not possible to live an ordinary life while withdrawing from whatever might possibly follow you.

The nightmarish ubiquity of surveillance capitalism doesn’t mean you should be indifferent about TikTok, which, as Internet 2.0 cyber-business co-CEO Robert Potter put it, Crikey, presents a much greater risk. While he acknowledges that our data is being siphoned off by everyone, companies that reside in China pose a greater risk due to the government’s weaponization of data, distinct from Western countries.

“[China] has this weird arrangement where they like to encourage innovation, but the government can never really leave the social media companies alone,” he said.

Potter explains that the Chinese government takes a “mosaic” approach to data collection, drawing huge amounts of data about an individual when it targets them, compared to Australian government agencies which are bound by a much narrower and more narrow approach. warrant-based. China’s national security laws require companies like ByteDance or WeChat, owner of a hugely popular messaging app, to carry out any request the government asks of them, including handing over user data.

The other aspect is how TikTok can be used to shape discussions outside of China. Potter points to censorship of platforms around Hong Kong or Xinjiang as evidence of how the company, beholden to Chinese government values, can restrict speech elsewhere.

Ultimately, Potter predicts that countries like the US, UK and Australia will eventually ban these Chinese social media platforms: “Their standards are not democratic. We send huge amounts of information about our children on these platforms. »

Until we get to that point, Australian TikTok users should assume that everything the app knows about them – your location, interests and biometrics like your face and voice – is also known to the government. Chinese. Whether that’s enough to wean you off the app is ultimately up to you.

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