What happened to… TikTok security concerns?

FILE - The TikTok app logo, in Tokyo, on Sept. 28, 2020. AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File

On this bonus episode of What happened to…?, Erica Vella looks at ongoing security concerns that surround the short-form video app TikTok.

TikTok is one of the most popular apps around the world, with more than one billion people using the app each month, but in February, Canada’s federal government announced a ban of the app on government devices.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s a move several countries have made in recent months.

“I think the concerns are sort of twofold. It does all kind of tie back to the ownership structure — ByteDance, like many Chinese firms, the Chinese Communist Party has some sort of representation within the company,” said Brett Caraway, a professor of media economics at the University of Toronto.

“I think that a lot of the concerns that are circulating around ByteDance and TikTok right now are very much part of a sort of escalation in tensions between China and the West…. There are concerns around the amount of information or data that a platform like TikTok … collects.”

On Feb. 27, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau announced the Canadian government would ban TikTok on all government-issued mobile devices.

“We are making the decision that for government employees and government equipment, it is better to not have them access TikTok because of the concerns people have over safety,” Trudeau said.

“This may be a first step and it may be the only step we need to take but every step of the way we are going to be making sure we are keeping Canadians safe.”

The chief information officer of Canada determined that TikTok presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.

Story continues below advertisement

“The decision to remove and block TikTok from government mobile devices is being taken as a precaution, particularly given concerns about the legal regime that governs the information collected from mobile devices, and is in line with the approach of our international partners,” then-Treasury Board president Mona Fortier said in a statement at the time.

“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone. While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”

TikTok has maintained the app isn’t unique in the amount of information it collects and all social media companies should be looked at with the same scrutiny.

TikTok says it follows the laws where it operates — in Canada, it follows Canadian privacy law through the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

On this episode of What happened to…?, Erica Vella speaks with experts about whether these concerns are legitimate and if similar measures will be taken against other social media apps.

Sponsored content