A TikTok executive has revealed that the social media giant's Chinese employees can access Australian user data.
The revelation came yesterday as part of a parliamentary committee into foreign interference via social media. Australia recently joined the likes of the US, UK and Canada in banning the use of TikTok on government-owned devices, citing concerns that the Chinese government has a stake in Douyin (China's version of TikTok).
James Paterson, Liberal senator and committee chair, questioned TikTok data security chief Will Farrell on how many times the app's China-based staff had accessed Australian users' data. Farrell was unable to provide exact numbers, but did admit that it has happened in the past.
However, Farrell explained that employees only have the minimum amount of access required by their job role, and that anyone seeking user data needed to provide a business case.
"Employees can’t get access without a clear justification and levels of approval," Farrell told the committee.
Senator Paterson later grilled TikTok Australia's general manager, Lee Hunter, over allegations that the company had inappropriately accessed user data in an effort to identify journalists' sources.
Hunter admitted that "serious misconduct" from "rogue employees" had indeed occurred, but that those staff members had since been let go.