TikTok Execs Tell MPs App is Not Controlled by China

TikTok executives defended the video-sharing app’s data security practices during a House of Commons committee meeting on Wednesday. Lawmakers expressed concerns that user data could be accessed by the Chinese government.

Western governments have previously raised alarms that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, could be a conduit for sensitive data to China’s government or for spreading misinformation.

David Lieber, TikTok’s Head of Privacy Public Policy for the Americas, stated, “I’m not an expert in Chinese law,” when questioned about China’s ability to order companies to assist in intelligence gathering, reports CTV News.

The federal government banned TikTok from government-owned devices in February, citing “unacceptable” privacy and security risks. Several provinces have followed suit including Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia back in March. Other provinces include Alberta, B.C. and Quebec have banned the app from government devices.

Steve de Eyre, TikTok Canada’s Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, argued that the ban is unfair and that TikTok is being singled out. “We do operate similar to other platforms,” he told the committee.

Federal and provincial privacy watchdogs are currently investigating TikTok’s compliance with privacy laws. The United States, Australia, and the European Union have also banned the app from government devices due to cybersecurity concerns.

Lieber mentioned that TikTok is taking measures to protect Canadian data by storing it on servers in the United States, Malaysia, and Singapore. However, he conceded that no technology company could make “categorical guarantees” about a government’s capabilities, including hacking.

A September 2022 intelligence brief by Canada’s Privy Council Office indicated growing evidence that TikTok’s data is accessible to China. The U.S. State Department also released a report alleging that ByteDance seeks to block critics of Beijing, including those advocating for Uyghur independence, from using its platforms.

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