Canada bans TikTok on government-issued devices


Canada has become the latest country to ban the hugely popular social media app TikTok from government-issued phones starting Tuesday in a decision that follows similar moves in the United States and Europe.

The Canadian government said it conducted a review of the video-sharing app owned by a Chinese company and “determined that it presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”

TikTok will therefore be removed from all government-issued mobile devices, the Treasury Board of Canada said in a statement, and users of government-issued mobile devices will be blocked from downloading app in the future.

“The Government of Canada is committed to keeping government information secure. We are constantly monitoring our systems and taking action to address risks,” said Treasury Board President Mona Fortier.

The decision “was taken as a precaution, especially given the concerns about the legal regime governing the information collected from mobile devices, and is consistent with the approach of our international partners,” Fortier added. . However, he said, “we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”

TikTok has faced increasing scrutiny over concerns that Beijing could use it to spy on or influence its more than 1 billion global users, many of them young, as well as data privacy concerns. The decision comes amid worsening geopolitical relations between China and some Western countries, including Canada and the US

On Monday the White House said that US government agencies have 30 days to ensure that the app is removed from federal devices and systems, ACCORDING to the Office of Management and Budget. In response, China’s Foreign Ministry told reporters on Tuesday that the decision reflected an uncertainty in Washington.

“How unsure of himself can the world’s highest power be afraid of the youth’s favorite app?” said spokesman Mao Ning. He said such restrictions are an abuse of state power and “overstretching the concept of national security,” and he urged the US government to “respect the principles of the market economy and fair competition.”

The CEO of TikTok has launched an aggressive push to prevent the popular app from being banned

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Monday that banning the app from government devices would also help everyday users “reflect on the security of their own data and maybe make choices.” consequence.”

He added that the ban involving government-issued devices “may be a first step, it may be the only step” the government needs to take.

Relations between Ottawa and Beijing have been strained in recent years, including a suspected Chinese spy balloon that recently entered Canadian airspace and claims of Chinese election interference. in 2021.

Separately, Canada’s federal privacy watchdog and its counterparts in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec also announced this month a joint investigation into TikTok to examine whether “the organization’s practices comply with the law.” of Canadian privacy.”

TikTok privacy settings to change now

A TikTok spokesperson said in an emailed statement that Canada made its decision “without discussing any specific security concerns or contacting us with questions,” and said it was “curious” that the move had come. only after the United States and the EU took the same. actions.

“We are always available to meet with our government officials to discuss how we can protect the privacy and security of Canadians, but singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve shared purpose. All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform that millions of Canadians love.

It’s TikTok is a private company with Western investors and international offices, but its parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing. Western politicians have expressed fears that the company’s ownership structure leaves it vulnerable to monitoring and censorship, concerns that TikTok denies. TikTok has previously said that it is not unique in the information it collects from user activity and that it is not influenced by the Chinese government.

In December, ByteDance fired four employees after an internal investigation found they had tracked down two American journalists and their colleagues while trying to identify a leak at the company. TikTok has repeatedly said that employees of ByteDance’s Beijing office are barred from accessing American data.

The White House announced on February 27 that federal agencies have 30 days to remove TikTok from their devices. (Video: Reuters)

Last year, Congress announced a blanket ban on the app for all federal government employees on their government-issued devices, citing “high-risk” security concerns, and more than two dozen states have introduced similar bans.

The app is also banned from official mobile devices at the White House, most branches of the military and several federal agencies, including the Homeland Security and State departments. But people working in the government can still use TikTok on their personal devices.

This month, the European Commission also took steps to ban its staff from using TikTok on work devices, as well as on personal devices with work-related apps installed, due to security concerns. On Tuesday, the Danish Parliament issued a warning to its lawmakers to remove TikTok from their work phones, saying it was “a spying risk.”

Despite the government taking steps to ban the app from official devices, TikTok remains very popular. The average American viewer watches TikTok for 80 minutes a day – more time spent on Facebook and Instagram combined, The Washington Post recently reported.

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