Australia's privacy watchdog has initiated an inquiry into TikTok's methods of personal data collection, focusing on the use of marketing pixels.
The investigation, conducted by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), seeks to determine whether the social media giant has infringed the online privacy of Australians by tracking users' online habits and shopping behaviors, as well as collecting other personal information.
The probe follows allegations from Senator James Paterson, who has been vocal in his concerns about TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.
Paterson claimed TikTok was using pixels to gather information about non-TikTok users, which he considered concerning given the company's obligations under China's intelligence laws to share data with the government.
TikTok responded to the claims stressing that the platform's use of marketing pixels complies with all Australian privacy laws and regulations.
It argued that the use of pixels is a common industry practice to enhance the effectiveness of advertising services.
Pixels are indeed a common tool for retargeting campaigns.
However, the OAIC is expected to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a formal investigation into the claims.
The allegations against TikTok resonate with wider concerns about social media's impact on privacy and data security.
TikTok has faced scrutiny and legal challenges in various regions in recent times, including the European Union and the United Kingdom, for its handling of user data.
To counter potential probes, TikTok opened its first European data center in September to address data privacy concerns linked to its Chinese roots.