Federal cybersecurity agency CEO warns against TikTok
TikTok has been accused of intrusive data collection, including by the European Union watchdog.
Canadians should be wary of apps that could leave their personal data in the “wrong hands,” says the head of the Canadian Center for Cyber Security.
The call for vigilance comes as social media outlet TikTok – whose parent company ByteDance is based in China – faces allegations that the app spied on its users.
Sami Khoury, director of the Canadian Center for Cyber Security, advises users to ask themselves certain questions when authorizing an application to access their data.
“Why does an app need to access my entire contact list? Why does she need access to my calendar, my email, my phone records, my [texts]?
— Sami Khoury, Director of the Canadian Center for Cyber Security
In some cases, your data lands in a place that does not follow the same state principles of law and respect for human rights than here, he told CBC News.
The agency Mr. Khoury works for falls under the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), which is overseen by National Defence.
TikTok has been accused of intrusive data collection, in particular by the monitoring body of the European Union. It is investigating what it calls TikTok's transfers of personal data to China.
CSE said Canadians with sensitive commercial information on their devices should be especially careful when authorizing an app to access their data.
Some platforms are responsible platforms where you potentially don't have to worry about the data falling into the hands of a nation state. But other platforms are too close to that line, Khoury said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that CSE has an eye on TikTok .
So far, CSE has not issued an advisory against using the app. Rather, it provides general advice to Canadians on best practices for cybersecurity on social media.
Mr. Khoury said CSE is updating that advice.
Late last year, Republican Senator Marco Rubio introduced a bill aimed at banning TikTok altogether in the United States.
Incidentally, the United States has already banned federal employees from using the app on government-issued devices, citing national security concerns. A growing number of US universities have also banned the use of the app on devices and networks belonging to educational institutions.
Evan Koronewski, a CSE spokesman, said he is watching closely what the United States and other allies are doing.
We continue to monitoring the situation and providing the Government of Canada with the most relevant cybersecurity advice, he said.
This includes working with our federal partners at the Treasury Board and Shared Services Canada to ensure that government information systems and networks remain secure and protected, added Mr. Koronewski.
In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson insisted that the Chinese Communist Party has no control over ByteDance, that the company has never provided Canadian user data to the Chinese government and would not if asked.
We continue to have a constructive relationship with the Canadian government. We protect the security and privacy of Canadian users and are committed to answering any questions officials may have, said the TikTok spokesperson.
About of the Canadian Center for Cyber Security, Khoury and his associate director, Rajiv Gupta, remain skeptical and urge caution.
I disable everything in all apps I use, because it's my personality, explained Mr. Gupta.
With information from Catharine Tunney, CBC News