TikTok’s cybersecurity risks require the government’s strong action

THE Digital and Communications Ministry should take strict action against TikTok for failing to comply with operating laws in Malaysia and for exposing consumers to dangerous cybersecurity risks.

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) has urged the government to be firm and immediately re-assess the appropriateness of allowing the TikTok application to continue to be used in Malaysia given the video hosting platform has failed to comply with the operational guidelines that have been set.

“This is also very worrying because TikTok is able to collect sensitive consumer data even if the consumer neither saved nor shared their content or is taken without the consumer’s clear knowledge,” CCC Malaysia associate Tarmizi Anuwar pointed out in a media statement.

“These include device brand and model, operating system (OS) version, mobile carrier, browsing history, names and types of applications and files, wireless connection and geolocation. Of course, this can expose consumers to cyber security risks.”

In June 2022, Buzzfeed revealed that employees of ByteDance’s headquarters (owner of TikTok) in China had access to US consumer data despite TikTok initially stating that all US consumer data was stored in US and Singapore data centers.

Tarmizi Anuwar

Following this, TikTok updated its privacy policy for European consumers in November 2022 stating that the application’s data may be accessed and managed by employees from ByteDance’s HQ and several offices in other countries such as Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and the US.

“Although, TikTok denies sharing data with the Chinese government, this matter is very worrying because China’s National Intelligence Law 2017 has a section that states that any organisation or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with national intelligence tasks in accordance with the law and ByteDance is not exempted.”

Commenting on the statement by Segamat MP R. Yuneswaran who proposed to block the popular social media platform, Tarmizi reckoned that the proposal should be considered and implemented by the government.

“Fundamentally, we support regulation that protects consumers’ platforms and technology choices but in this case, TikTok fails to comply with national laws and may risk creating concerns about cybersecurity, especially by illegally sharing data with the Chinese government,” noted Tarmizi.

“Of course, this matter involves the sovereignty of the country, especially in the ability to influence and shape public opinion to consumers in Malaysia on geopolitical issues that are happening at the international level.”

He added: “Furthermore, the spread of fake news and slanderous 3R content involving religion, race and the royal institution is not taken seriously by TikTok, hence the platform could be propagating the spread of undesirable information to consumers.” – Oct 20, 2023

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