Australia Today

Australia’s Privacy Watchdog Has Launched an Inquiry Into TikTok’s Data Collection

Australia’s privacy commission has launched an inquiry into TikTok's collection of personal information, even of people who don’t have TikTok on their phones​.
tiktok australia privacy commission inquiry data collection
Australia’s privacy watchdog has launched an inquiry into TikTok for its collection of personal information, even of people who don’t have TikTok on their phones. Photo: iStock. 

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has launched an inquiry to investigate whether TikTok is harvesting Australians’ data without their consent and therefore breaching Australia’s privacy laws.

TikTok uses a data collection tool known as pixel to harvest users’ details including email addresses, phone numbers and internet browsing histories, even if they don’t have a TikTok account or the TikTok app on their phone. The pixel can then track a person’s identity and shopping habits by collecting this information without people’s knowledge or consent. 


According to TikTok’s website, the tracking Pixel can help brands find new customers, optimise campaigns and measure ad performance.

It is a piece of code that is placed on a brand or company’s website, “which collects data on user behaviour such as page views, clicks, and conversions by visitors and customers. 

“The code allows you to track user actions taken on your site and attribute them to your TikTok ads when they visit your website, which allows actions taken on your site to be attributed to your TikTok ads,” the website reads.

“The TikTok Pixel helps you gain insights into which ads are performing well, which audience types are engaging with your content, and which actions users are taking after clicking on your ads.”

Most social media platforms have their own pixel tools to gather data but the TikTok pixel has been found to be sending that information back to TikTok’s servers in China, along with the user’s location, the device they’re using and their actions online. 

The inquiry comes after the Age and Sydney Morning Herald revealed on Tuesday that several Australian brands and organisations were removing the TikTok pixel from their websites over legal and privacy concerns. 


A spokesperson for Beyond Blue said when journalists alerted the organisation about the issue, they immediately commenced a review of our privacy policy and removed the TikTok pixel from our website. 

“Like many health organisations, Beyond Blue uses tools such as pixels to help us deliver safe and relevant content to people online,” the Spokesperson told the SMH. 

Commissioner Angelene Falk who launched the inquiry said in a statement: “We are making inquiries relating to TikTok’s handling of personal information following the findings made by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office in its investigation into the company.” 

“The [Office of the Australian Information Commissioner] is also making inquiries following this recent information which alleges data scraping in regard to TikTok’s practices in order to determine whether to investigate.”

This also comes after the TikTok app was banned on all Australian government devices over data security concerns in April this year. 

A TikTok spokeswoman this week denied the pixel breaches Australia’s privacy laws, but the platform has been facing global scrutiny for several years now because of its parent company ByteDance’s links to the Chinese Communist Party and the fact that Chinese law requires organisations “support, assist and co-operate with the state intelligence work”.

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Aleksandra Bliszczyk is the Deputy Editor of VICE Australia. Follow her on Instagram.