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Canada's electronic spy agency watching TikTok 'very carefully,' Trudeau says

Ben Andrews · CBC News · Posted: Dec 15, 2022 12:39 PM ET | Last Updated: December 16

Canada's electronic spy agency is watching out for security threats from the popular Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

Responding to questions from reporters in a pre-cabinet scrum on Parliament Hill, Trudeau said the Communications Security Establishment, Canada's foreign signals intelligence agency, is keeping an eye on TikTok as Republican lawmakers move to ban the app in the U.S.

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"I think people are concerned about TikTok. I think people are obviously watching very carefully," he said. "The ... CSE is one of the best cyber security agencies in the world and they're watching very carefully."

U.S. moves to ban TikTok

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday announced bipartisan legislation to ban the app, which reaches more than one billion users worldwide.

The legislation responds to growing concerns in the U.S. that TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. could use the app to spy on or censure Americans.

Rubio's bill would block all transactions from any social media company in, or under the influence of, China and Russia, the senator's office said in a news release.

 

The bill would be an expansion of existing American laws restricting access to TikTok. The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill in August 2020 banning federal employees from using the app on government-issued devices.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the company's U.S. security plans were developed under the oversight of top American national security agencies.

"It is troubling that rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review of TikTok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically-motivated ban that will do nothing to advance the national security of the United States," the spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson said TikTok has never provided Canadian user data to the Chinese government and would not if it were asked to do so. Canadian user data is stored in data centres in the U.S. and Singapore, the spokesperson added.

NDP ethics critic Matthew Green said in an email to CBC the party believes Canada has fallen behind its European counterparts on data protection. He did not call for a ban on TikTok for federal employees' devices.

"While New Democrats don't think a ban on TikTok should be dismissed outright, the government needs to take the first steps to introduce better regulation and work side by side with our allies on data protection," Green said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has nearly 900 thousand followers on TikTok and routinely uses the platform.

Trudeau also responded to a question about the risk of Chinese infiltration of Canadian government accounts on Twitter.

He said the government is "watching what the Americans are doing" regarding the U.S.-based social media giant, which has been under intense scrutiny since billionaire Elon Musk completed his purchase of the company in October.

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 Canada joins U.S.-led moon mission 

Canada is joining a U.S.-led project that will see humans return to the moon and set the stage for further exploration to Mars, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday. Known as the Lunar Gateway, the project includes an outpost that will provide living space for astronauts orbiting the moon, a docking station for visiting spacecraft and laboratories for research.

"Canada's historic investment will create good jobs for Canadians, keep our astronaut program running and our aerospace industry strong and growing while opening up a new realm of possibilities for Canadian research and innovation," Trudeau said at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Que. The announcement comes amid ongoing turmoil within the Trudeau government over SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau faced questions about the issue during his news conference. 

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