• TikTok could be removed from app stores for Aussies, a politician has suggested 
  • A report released last week revealed the app can track taps on a user’s phone 
  • The Opposition cybersecurity spokesperson said a ban should be ‘on the table’

Australia should consider banning TikTok if the government can’t be confident the Chinese company isn’t mining users’ data, a senior politician has claimed.

A cybersecurity report released last week caused shockwaves after it revealed the app can track users’ screen taps when they visit other sites through TikTok.

The video sharing platform runs code that enables it to observe the entry of text input, like credit card details and passwords, during ‘in-app browsing’.

Liberal senator and opposition cyber security spokesperson James Paterson said an outright ban on the app should be up for discussion.

TikTok runs code that enables it to track users' screen taps when they visit other sites through its app, new research reveals. The video sharing platform can observe the entry of text input, like credit card details and passwords, during 'in-app browsing' (stock image)

TikTok runs code that enables it to track users’ screen taps when they visit other sites through its app, new research reveals. The video sharing platform can observe the entry of text input, like credit card details and passwords, during ‘in-app browsing’ (stock image)

Mr Paterson also serves on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security – which examines foreign interference threats – and said increasing tensions with China required the issue be addressed urgently.

‘A ban should be on the table… we don’t want to wake up in a conflict scenario and think we need to protect our cyber security,’ he told The Oz.

Katherine Manstead, Director of Cyber Intelligence at Australian security firm CyberCX, told the publication the Chinese Communist Party had ‘an insatiable appetite for the personal information of Australian citizens’.

She said this information could then be used to gauge public opinion on topics and discern vulnerabilities or areas that could be manipulated by large scale ‘social mapping’.

More than 2.5million Australians regularly use TikTok – owned by Chinese company ByteDance – that allows users to upload short videos and watch other user’s videos fed to them using an algorithm.

About a third of Australian users are under 15.

More than 2.5million Australians regularly use TikTok with about a third of those under 15

More than 2.5million Australians regularly use TikTok with about a third of those under 15

Uri Gal, a business systems professor at the University of Sydney, said that TikTok has an ‘added level of espionage and national security that doesn’t exist with US organisations’.

He said restrictions against Chinese technology were not unprecedented, citing the previous Turnbull government’s ban on Huawei being involved in Australia’s upgrade to a 5G network.

Back in June, US Federal Communications Commission leader Brendan Carr called TikTok a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ after leaked internal audio from 80 TikTok meetings revealed employees  accessed US user’s private data as recently as January 2022.

That was before last week’s bombshell security report highlighting the extent of TikTok’s data gathering capability.

Software engineer Felix Krause reported his findings after analysing the JavaScript code social media apps run when a user opens a website link within them.

For the code to work and keystrokes tracked, the user needs opens a third-party site within TikTok, as opposed to another browser like Safari or Google Chrome.

He tweeted:  ‘When opening a website from within the TikTok iOS app, they inject code that can observe every keyboard input (which may include credit card details, passwords or other sensitive information).

‘TikTok also has code to observe all taps, like clicking on any buttons or links.’

Audio leaked in June from 80 internal TikTok meetings revealed that ByteDance employees had accessed user data but the company denied it would provide data to the CCP if asked (stock image)

Audio leaked in June from 80 internal TikTok meetings revealed that ByteDance employees had accessed user data but the company denied it would provide data to the CCP if asked (stock image)

In the report he added: ‘We can’t know what TikTok uses the subscription for, but from a technical perspective, this is the equivalent of installing a keylogger on third party websites.’

However, this does not mean the app, or its Chinese parent company ByteDance, are performing needless surveillance.

Mr Krause wrote: ‘Just because an app injects JavaScript into external websites, doesn’t mean the app is doing anything malicious.

‘There is no way for us to know the full details on what kind of data each in-app browser collects, or how or if the data is being transferred or used.

TikTok has previously denied they are using the script to collect data and that additionally they would not provide data to the Chinese Communist Party if asked.

TikTok tweeted from their official Twitter account to brand the report's claims as 'incorrect and misleading'

TikTok tweeted from their official Twitter account to brand the report’s claims as ‘incorrect and misleading’

Source: Daily Mail

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