TikTok tells MPs it wouldn’t share Canadian data with Chinese government

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OTTAWA — MPs at the House of Commons privacy committee grilled executives from social media video platform TikTok over the company’s links to the Chinese government Wednesday.

“We’ve been quite clear that we would not disclose user data to the Chinese government if they made a request. They have not made such a request, and the Chinese government has not asserted the rights over any TikTok user data,” said David Lieber, TikTok’s head of privacy public policy for the Americas.

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He said if the Chinese government made any such request, the company would “certainly” disclose it in its transparency report.

In February, Canada banned TikTok from government devices. Then-Treasury Board president Mona Fortier said the app “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”

The bans in Canada and other countries came amidst concerns about TikTok’s data-collection practices and Chinese ownership of the app and its parent company ByteDance Ltd. Chinese national security law says Chinese companies must cooperate with state intelligence work.

Lieber said Canadian user data is stored in the United States, Singapore and Malaysia.

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Steve de Eyre, TikTok’s director of public policy and government affairs in Canada, told the committee ByteDance is a private company that isn’t “owned or controlled” by the Chinese government.

“TikTok’s handling of Canadians’ user data is governed by Canadian law, like PIPEDA, and provincial privacy laws. The way that TikTok collects and uses data is similar to other platforms,” he said.

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De Eyre told MPs the company has been in touch with the federal government “to try and understand better what criteria was used to identify only TikTok and to single out TikTok, whether that same criteria has been applied to other platforms.”

There probably isn’t a need to have social media or entertainment apps on government employee devices, he said. “But those rules should apply equally to all platforms.”

NDP MP Matthew Green asked whether the Chinese government has the ability to access data through a backdoor, without having to make a request.

“I’m not aware of any such capability,” Lieber responded. “But I also want to be clear that it would be irresponsible for me or any other employee of a technology company, to make categorical guarantees about what governments are capable of or incapable of in terms of their ability to conduct activities, including hacking, on their own initiative.”

Green also pressed the company representatives about whether ByteDance is subject to China’s national security law.

“The parent company has subsidiaries that are in all parts of the world, and those parts of the world where there aren’t Chinese users, may have jurisdictional arguments that the Chinese law doesn’t apply, but I’m not going to opine on the application of Chinese law to each and every one of those subsidiaries,” Lieber said.

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Originally posted 2023-10-19 00:12:18.