The dark side of TikTok: Dangerous messaging and concerns about Chinese data harvesting

New analysis has found the Chinese-owned platform TikTok is harvesting vast amounts of personal data from its users.

Some observers are worried the data is being used by the Chinese government to spread misinformation - while there are also concerns that users are spreading plenty of dangerous messages among themselves.

Love it or hate it, TikTok's cast a spell over almost everyone. In fact, Kiwis spend around 85 minutes a day on the popular app.

But look a little deeper into the world of TikTok and there's a darker side to the fun. 

Hashtags like 'thinspiration', encouraging teens with tips and tricks to lose weight, are finding their way to those recovering from eating disorders like Elsie and Francesca.

"When I wanted to get better I saw these videos encouraging eating such small amounts of food and low calories, it was really hard because eating disorders are very competitive by nature," they said. 

The app's reach extends beyond the hands of the user. 

More than a million New Zealanders have an account and could be leaving themselves wide open to online manipulation. 

"TikTok collects far more information than necessary and it's frankly frightening," Australian Senator James Paterson said. 

An Australian cyber security company believes the Chinese-owned social media platform is gathering your photos, contacts and calendars and then sending that data to Beijing.

"[Where] they could use to engage in disinformation and interference to subvert our democracy and that's a very dangerous thing," Paterson said.

"They also say the app doesn't give connectivity to hand over data, but we were able to find there were significant connections into China through the app," cyber security expert Robert Potter said. 

Their advice is to turn off some of these features like location sharing.

Because whether it's information you're giving out or dangerous messaging you're taking in, the TikTok dance moves are not all fun and games.