The University of British Columbia has advised students to uninstall popular video-sharing platform TikTok from their phones — and to instead use a web browser to access the app.
In a post regarding privacy matters on its website, the university acknowledged TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms at the school.
“However, it has also raised security and privacy concerns due to its data collection practices and sharing data with its parent company ByteDance, which is based in China,” the March 28 notice said.
UBC noted the federal government has issued a ban on the use of TikTok on government-issued devices, with provincial governments following suit.
“We also recommend that you evaluate your activities on all your social media accounts, including updating your privacy settings and limiting the amount of personal information you share,” the notice said.
However, the university continues to maintain a TikTok account.
“UBC is not considering a ban on TikTok use on university-owned devices,” a UBC statement said.
“We’re monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates as required,” UBC spokesperson Matthew Ramsey told Glacier Media.
Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria could not immediately provide situation reports from their campuses.
In February, privacy protection officials for Canada, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta announced they are jointly investigating TikTok for its possible collection, use and disclosure of personal information.
B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner said the investigation was initiated in the wake of now-settled, class-action lawsuits in the United States and Canada, as well as numerous media reports related to the short-form video and streaming application.
What the commissioners are looking into are whether TikTok's practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy legislation and in particular, whether valid and meaningful consent is being obtained for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.
Multiple countries such as Belgium, Denmark, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. as well as the European Union have banned civil servants from using TikTok on devices as privacy and cybersecurity concerns rise.
On March 23, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by lawmakers in Washington, D.C., as to why the app shouldn’t be banned. He spent much of his time battling assertions that TikTok, or Chinese parent company, ByteDance, are Chinese government tools.
In March 2022, B.C. information and privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy noted a recent court case against TikTok where people had to go to court to stop the collection of children’s data.
That suit claimed TikTok collected private information from underage users without proper consent. The suit alleged breaches of a minor's privacy and sought damages under B.C.’s Privacy Act, Infants Act and at common law.
In February, TikTok agreed to a $2-million settlement after lawsuits asserted the popular social media platform illegally collected and commercialized personal data from Canadian users.