It seems like a life time ago, but there was a period during 2020 when many people were worried TikTok was a national security risk to Australia.
To recap: TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. Ergo, people were worried about the company’s links to the Chinese Communist Party.
During the middle of the year, Australia’s political leaders considered the risk that the company was collecting data on Australians, with at least one MP even calling for it to be banned.
Back in August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison played down concerns.
“Well, we have had a look, a good look at this, and there is no evidence for us to suggest, having done that, that there is any misuse of any people’s data that has occurred, at least from an Australian perspective, in relation to these applications,” he said.
So what exactly qualifies a ‘good look’? Well, perhaps not a lot, considering what we know.
During TikTok’s appearance in front of the Senate inquiry into foreign influence through social media, Labor’s Jenny McAllister asked what reviews or investigations had been undertaken by the Department of Home Affairs and its agencies.
Months later we get the response: they can only confirm one short form risk assessment was undertaken.
And, as initially reported by ABC after a freedom of information request, it was about whether TikTok should be allowed on the Department’s phones — not about broader questions of national security.
This review began and was completed in January 2020, did not include a technical assessment of the app, nor did it look at what data is collected, how it’s collected and where it’s stored.
In short: it didn’t look at much.
In August, the ABC also reported that the Federal Government was undertaking two additional reviews: one by the security agencies and another by the Department of Home Affairs.
But for the former, the Department refused to answer questions, and for the latter, the Department’s answer seems to preclude this.
So all we know about Scomo’s ‘good look’ is that it’s based at least in part and maybe wholly on a month long investigation that didn’t look into the app’s data collection practices or it’s inner-workings.
Don’t you feel safer, now?