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TikTok once again faced heavy scrutiny as it is suspected to pose a national security threat which led to a congressional hearing in the US, a move that could also impact how the app is viewed elsewhere in the world, including in Canada.
Tiktok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before a congressional hearing last March 23, 2023 to answer questions about the platform’s data practices and its connection to the Chinese Government. The hearing comes amid growing concerns that TikTok could be used by foreign governments to gather sensitive information about American citizens.
“Since I’ve been CEO of this company, I’ve not had any discussions with Chinese government officials,” emphasized Chew during the hearing, adding that he can’t verify the app’s involvement with the Communist Party since he “don’t know the political affiliation of everybody I speak to.”
The TikTok Controversy
At the US Congressional Hearing, questions were raised about the platform’s connection to the Chinese government and its handling of user data for some time now.
This controversy started when then US President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning the app due to concerns over data privacy and its Chinese ownership.
However, the ban was temporarily blocked by a federal judge and Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, revoked Trump’s executive order. Still, the controversy surrounding the app and the scrutiny it faces is prevalent up to this day, thus leading to this Congressional Hearing.
Observers noted that once the US Congressional Hearing concludes that TikTok is found to be collecting and sharing user data with the Chinese government, it could have serious consequences for Canada’s national security and privacy as well.
Being a member of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, Canada shares information and intelligence with the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. When the US finally bans TikTok, Canada might be pressured to follow suit.
What Is TikTok?
TikTok is a popular app that allows users to create and share short videos with music, filters, and other effects. It has now become incredibly popular among kids, teens, and adults alike.
With over a billion active users worldwide, TikTok handles huge amounts of data daily. It did not escape criticism in recent years and concerns over user privacy and data protection, and is now being suspected as a threat to national security in the US. As this progressed, talks about banning the app became more loud and frequent.
The appearance of Chew before Congress has sparked a flurry of reactions. While some have praised his willingness to appear and answer questions, others have criticized the platform’s data practices and called for a ban.
In an article on CNN, cybersecurity expert Brian Finch argued that TikTok’s data collection practices were not significantly different from those of other social media platforms. He suggested that the US government should focus on enforcing existing data privacy laws, rather than banning TikTok outright.
On the other hand, a report from Reuters cited several cybersecurity experts who expressed concern about TikTok’s potential ties to the Chinese government and suggested that the platform could be used to collect sensitive data on US citizens and that its algorithms could be manipulated to promote Chinese propaganda jeopardizing the national security of the US.
What It Means to Canada
Expectedly, the US Congressional Hearing provides oversight for TikTok CEO as it tries to address the controversy it is facing. Experts agree that countries like Canada should also reexamine TikTok in their respective jurisdictions as they try to protect their citizens’ data and national security.
They added that while the outcome of the hearing is still underway, it is clear that TikTok’s future hangs in the balance. As concerns over the platform’s connection to the Chinese government and its handling of user data continue to grow, it is clear that this controversy is far from over.