Canada’s federal privacy commissioner, along with three provincial privacy commissioners, has started an investigation into TikTok, examining how the video-streaming platform collects the personal data of Canadian users.
The investigation is beginning now because class action lawsuits in the United States and Canada have been settled, the commissioners said in a statement.
The three participating provincial commissioners are from Québec, Alberta, and British Columbia.
The four privacy regulators will examine whether the organization’s practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy legislation, the statement said, and in particular, whether valid and meaningful consent is being obtained for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information. The investigation will also determine if the company is meeting its transparency obligations, particularly when collecting personal information from its users.
“An important proportion of TikTok users are younger users,” the commissioners said. “Given the importance of protecting children’s privacy, the joint investigation will have a particular focus on TikTok’s privacy practices as they relate to younger users, including whether the company obtained valid and meaningful consent from these users for the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information.”
The federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) will investigate possible breaches of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Québec’s Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec will investigate compliance with the Act Respecting the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector and the Act to Establish a Legal Framework for Information Technology in Québec, B.C.’s commissioner will investigate compliance with the provincial Personal Information Protection Act and Alberta’s information commissioner will investigate compliance with the province’s Personal Information Protection Act.
This isn’t the first time several of the country’s privacy and information commissioners have partnered to perform a joint investigation. Last year, a group report was issued into the use by Tim Hortons of its mobile app for location tracking of users. The commissioners found the app violated federal and provincial privacy laws.
In 2021, a joint investigation found facial recognition provider Clearview AI violated federal and provincial privacy laws by scraping images from the internet without permission and using them in its commercial product.
While every province and territory has a privacy or information commissioner, the business sectors of most are covered by the PIPEDA. B.C., Alberta and Québec have their own private sector privacy laws.
According to a news report, the class action settlement in the U.S. meant American residents who created videos on the app before September 30, 2021 would receive payments between US$27.84 and US$167.04 following the US$92 million settlement of a data privacy class-action with the social media platform.
Last year, a Canadian court approved a deal to settle claims here. TikTok agreed to pay $2 million to resolve two class action lawsuits in British Columbia, both of which alleged it wrongly collected private information from minors and adults.
In both the U.S. and Canadian lawsuits, TikTok didn’t admit any wrongdoing.