Australia considers strengthening privacy laws after UK parliament shuts down TikTok account

The opposition’s cybersecurity spokesman, senator James Paterson, said the Coalition was ready to support any government regulation to protect Australians that was in the national interest but took a shot at Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil for not advancing specific steps.

“I don’t use TikTok, and I encourage all Australian MPs who do to carefully consider whether they are willing to run the risk their data could be accessed by Chinese government security agencies,” he said.

“At the very least, they should not have the app on their personal devices as advised by our intelligence agencies.”

A TikTok company spokesman disputed suggestions it poses a security risk, saying its approach to user data was “completely consistent with the industry and other trusted Australian companies, including banks and telecommunications companies.”

He said many major Australian organisations had some user data accessible to personnel in China.

British MPs said they had been “surprised and disappointed” to learn that parliament had established the account as TikTok data was “routinely transferred to China”.

“While efforts made to engage young people in the history and functioning of parliament should always be welcomed, we cannot and should not legitimise the use of an app which has been described by tech experts as ‘essentially Chinese government spyware’,” Tory MPs, including Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton, Iain Duncan Smith and the Labour peer Helena Kennedy wrote.

All were sanctioned by China last year, in a move that Beijing said was retaliation for joint EU-UK and Canadian sanctions against Chinese officials over human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Iain Duncan Smith.Credit:AP

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and his counterpart in the Lords wrote to the MPs and said they were not consulted on TikTok pilot and ordered the account be closed immediately.

“The account was an attempt to engage with younger audiences – who are not always active on our existing social media platforms – regarding the work of the parliament,” the pair wrote.

“However, in light of your feedback and concerns expressed to us, we have decided that the account should be closed with immediate effect.”


Iain Duncan Smith who is co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China – an international cross-party group of more than 100 MPs – said other government departments should also close down their accounts.

“TikTok is an established security risk and I am pleased the UK parliament has closed their account,” the former Tory party leader told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“Government departments must now do the same and I hope MPs will follow suit.

“It is a data harvester which, by Chinese law, is bound to pass on their data to the Chinese security services on demand.


“We need to wake up to the serious threat that the Chinese government poses to our freedoms and the freedom of those nations near to China,” he said.

Loughton said it would have been extraordinary for parliament to have promoted a company linked to the Communist party state while seven MPs remained sanctioned.

“The Speakers of the Commons and Lords are to be congratulated for acting so swiftly to emphasise how there must be consequences when the Chinese government have acted so arbitrarily and unjustly to sanction the voices of British parliamentarians doing their job and highlighting the industrial-scale human rights abuses and genocide being carried out on their watch,” he said.

Lord David Alton also told this masthead that TikTok posed a threat to human rights, civil liberties and national security.

“If TikTok isn’t safe for parliament or parliamentarians it begs the question, who is safe to use it and where is it safe to use?”

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