Investigation to ‘have a particular focus’ on how TikTok’s privacy policies affect younger users
Canada is launching a joint federal and provincial investigation into short-video app TikTok over concerns about the Chinese-owned platform’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said on Thursday.
The joint investigation involves the federal privacy regulator, as well as provincial counterparts in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, according to a news release issued Thursday (new window).
The news release says the regulators will examine whether [TikTok’s] practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy legislation and in particular, whether valid and meaningful consent is being obtained for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.
It also says the regulators will be looking at whether TikTok is meeting its transparency obligations, particularly when collecting personal information from its users.
The probe will have a particular focus on how TikTok’s privacy practices affect younger people using the app, the news release says.
Privacy ‘a top priority’: TikTok
In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Danielle Morgan told The Canadian Press the privacy and safety of the TikTok community, particularly our younger users, is always a top priority, and we are committed to operating with transparency to earn and maintain the trust of the many Canadians who create and find joy on our platform.
Morgan said we welcome the opportunity to work with the federal and provincial privacy protection authorities to set the record straight on how we protect the privacy of Canadians.
Canada joins governments and regulators from around the world that have been scrutinizing TikTok because of concerns China could use the app to harvest users’ data or advance its interests. TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd.
The investigation also adds another potential thorn in Sino-Canadian relations which have been tense for various reasons, including recent accusations that China has tried to influence Canadian elections (new window) and that it has been running air and maritime surveillance activities.
Beijing denies those allegations.
EU bans app from policy staff phones
News of the Canadian probe comes as the European Union’s (EU’s) two biggest policy-making institutions have banned TikTok from staff phones for cybersecurity reasons.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton, who announced a ban by the European Commission, declined to say whether the Commission had been subject to any incidents involving TikTok.
An official also said on Thursday that staff at the EU Council, which brings together representatives of the member states to set policy priorities, would also have to uninstall TikTok from their personal phones with access to EU Council services.
Responding to the announcement, TikTok said it was disappointed and surprised that the Commission had not reached out before instituting the ban.
Thomson Reuters with files from CBC News and The Canadian Press