By Ismail Shakil
OTTAWA (Reuters) -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 Privacy Commissioner of Canada said on Thursday.
The federal privacy regulator, as well as provincial counterparts in Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, will examine whether TikTok’s practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy laws, the commissioner’s office said in a statement.
They will focus on examining “whether valid and meaningful consent is being obtained for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information,” according to the statement.
A spokesperson for TikTok said the privacy and safety of users “is always a top priority” and the probe was an opportunity to “set the record straight” on how the company protects 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 European Union’s two biggest policy-making institutions have banned TikTok from staff phones, while the U.S. Senate in December passed a bill to bar federal employees from using the app on government-owned devices.
The investigation also adds another potential thorn in Sino-Canadian relations which have been tense for various reasons, including recent accusations by Ottawa that China has tried to influence its elections and that it has been running air and maritime surveillance activities.
Beijing denies those allegations and has urged Ottawa to stop unwarranted speculation and smearing.
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chris Reese)