Is TikTok safe to use in NZ? Expert weighs in after MPs urged to delete app

Is the time ticking on TikTok? New Zealand's MPs have been urged to delete the popular video sharing app, while US President Donald Trump has threatened to ban it overseas.

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MPs here have been urged to delete the Chinese owned app. Source: Seven Sharp

The Chinese-owned app has prompted privacy concerns, with a lack of information about where users' data gets sent.

Mr Trump has threatened to ban it unless the US operations are bought by a US company, with Microsoft vying to make the purchase. New Zealand's operations would also be bought by Microsoft in the proposed deal.

But should New Zealanders be worried about whether or not to use the app?

AUT senior marketing lecturer Dr Sommer Kapitan says it's important people understand their data is being given up when using most popular apps, including the US-owned Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

"But what's different about TikTok is that this is the first global platform for a Chinese-based service," she told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

"We're giving up our data. We're just not sure what's happening with it. And that means we should all be concerned about our data."

Dr Kapitan says the popular app is essentially a social media "talent show".

"There's fun entertainment and content on there. And especially in times that are distressing or uncertain, it's OK to have this outlet, right?" she says.

"But what we don't know is what's happening with our data."

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But for New Zealand's politicians, urged to delete the app from their phones, abandoning the site could mean missing out on a valuable voter base.

Dr Kapitan says around 60 per cent of the app's users are people under 30.

"It doesn't mean it's a great spot for super political, deep policy debates, but it is a place to be seen and to be visible," she says.

"That means there's a moment of connection for younger voters that if MPs do not have this ability to connect, we could be losing out on a chance to cultivate future voters."

She points to the Cambridge Analytica case study, which found markets had harvested Facebook data to re-target political ads.

"That's pretty wretched. The idea that a different company, who we're not sure what their aims and goals are about using our data, may do the same, is something we should all be wary of," Dr Kapitan says.

"So whether a ban comes or not, we need to be careful as consumers in New Zealand."