The privacy protection authorities for Canada, Québec, British Columbia, and Alberta have announced they will start an investigation into TikTok's privacy practices, especially in relation to its younger users.
The investigation will include whether the company obtained valid and meaningful consent from its users for the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal information.
The investigation was initiated in the wake of now settled, class action lawsuits in the United States and Canada, as well as numerous media reports related to TikTok’s collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.
TikTok claims to have 1 billion users, and when you look at the age distribution it's no surprise to see that younger people take up the largest share of users.
Source: App Ape
So, it is understandable that the Canadian regulators put extra emphasis on protecting the privacy of younger users.
Since it is near impossible to determine with whom information is shared, the focus of the Canadian investigation will be to determine if the company is meeting its transparency obligations, particularly when collecting personal information from its users. It will also assess whether the organization’s practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy legislation.
The Chinese-owned platform is under growing Western scrutiny. The FCC has called the app a "unacceptable security risk" and asked it to be removed from app stores.
Because of the suspected ties to the Chinese government, TikTok has been banned from the devices of state employees in several US states. The US Congress passed a ban on downloading TikTok for most government devices, which President Joe Biden signed in late December, and momentum is building among lawmakers to broaden it even further.
Recently, public authorities in the Netherlands were told to steer clear of TikTok. Staff working at the European Commission have been ordered to remove the TikTok app from their phones and corporate devices. In the UK, there is a call for the UK government to follow the European Commission, the EU executive, and the EU Council, and order staff to delete the app.
Last year the state of Indiana filed a lawsuit against TikTok because it found that TikTok's 12+ rating on the Apple App Store and the "T" for "Teen" rating in the Google Play Store and the Microsoft Store are misleading, since minors are repeatedly exposed to inappropriate content generated by the app's algorithm.
There have also been concerns that TikTok does not limit its tracking to users of the app.
TikTok said privacy is a top priority. TikTok’s main defense consists of the fact that most of its senior staff are outside of China. In defense of the earliest accusations, TikTok clarified on its blog where its data are stored, saying the data are not subject to Chinese law.
"TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked."
A representative for TikTok stated as a response to the announced Canadian investigation that it has tried to set the record straight regarding how the company protects Canadians' privacy.
We’ll keep you posted on how this develops.
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