Canada could follow U.S. and ban TikTok, tech analyst says

If the U.S. bans TikTok over national security concerns, Canada could follow suit.

“We can’t afford to be out of sync with them on issues of digital policy that are this important,” tech analyst Carmi Levy told CTV News. “We are going to have to follow the U.S.’ lead, one way or another.”

The U.S. Senate is now considering a bill that would ban the popular video app nationwide unless its China-based owner sells its stake in the business. There are fears that Beijing-based technology firm ByteDance Ltd. could be legally compelled to provide user data to Chinese authorities.

“It is known as an aggressive data harvester; it collects even more data than the average (app),” Levy explained in an interview this week. “We know that if you do business in China, you have to agree that if the government comes calling and asks for data, you’ve got to hand it over.”

TikTok has long denied accusations from the U.S., which has not provided any evidence, of data-sharing with Chinese authorities. Canada recently revealed that it began its own national security review of TikTok in September 2023, although few details have been released.

“Canada needs to be a little bit more, let’s call it forthcoming,” Levy said. “They’re not as transparent as they probably should be. Canadians deserve to know more.”

TikTok is already banned from government devices in both the U.S. and Canada. Canada’s industry minister has said, meanwhile, that Canadians and their children should not be worried about the app, which has millions of daily users.

“China has a history of this; they’ve built the world’s most sophisticated mass surveillance infrastructure,” Levy said. “We have every right to be concerned.”

Levy expects policymakers in Ottawa will closely watch U.S. developments and follow their lead in the months ahead.

“We often do that: we wait for other jurisdictions who are a little bit more progressive, usually the U.S., usually the EU, to kind of figure it out for themselves and then we learn from those mistakes and then craft our legislation and process accordingly,” he said. “So I would expect that we’re doing the same thing.”

Similar to banning Chinese tech giant Huawei from Canada’s 5G networks, Levy thinks a TikTok ban would largely be a symbolic political move.

“If we really do think that we’re going to stop China from using technology to expand its mass surveillance capabilities across the planet by taking down one company’s hardware or one company’s app, I think we’re fooling ourselves,” Levy told CTV News.

“It makes for really great political theatre, and it shows that the government is doing something, but ultimately does it make us safer? No, because I’m pretty sure the government there has other avenues to surveil us and they’re likely leveraging them now.”

Watch the full interviews with Carmi Levy at the top of the article

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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