TORONTO – Canada announced Monday that it is banning TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices, reflecting growing concern from Western officials about the Chinese-owned video sharing app.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it could be a first step to further action or it could be.
“I suspect that as the government takes the important step of telling all federal employees that they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones many Canadians from businesses to private individuals will reflect on the security of their own data and maybe make choices,” Trudeau said. .
“I’ve always been a fan of giving Canadians the information for them to make the right decisions for them,” he added.
The executive branch of the European Union said last week that TikTok was temporarily banned from phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure.
The EU action follows similar steps in the US, where more than half of the states and Congress have banned TikTok from official government devices.
Last week, Canada’s federal privacy watchdog and its provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec announced an investigation to determine whether the app complies with Canadian privacy law.
TikTok is very popular among young people, but its Chinese ownership has raised fears that Beijing could use it to collect data on Western users or push pro-China narratives and misinformation. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020
TikTok has faced increasing scrutiny from Europe and America over security and data privacy amid concerns the app could be used to promote pro-Beijing views or sweep users’ information. It comes as China and the West are locked in a wider tug of war over technology ranging from spy balloons to computer chips.
Canadian Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said the federal government will also block the app from downloading official tools in the future.
Fortier said in the statement that Canada’s Chief Information Officer determined that it “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
The app will be removed from Canadian government-issued phones on Tuesday.
“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide extensive access to the phone’s contents,” Fortier said.
“While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”
Recent media reports have also raised concerns about potential Chinese interference in Canada’s recent election, prompting opposition parties to call for a public inquiry into of alleged interference in foreign elections.
“It’s surprising that the Government of Canada has moved to block TikTok on government-issued devices – without citing any specific security concerns or contacting us with questions – after the same ban introduced in the EU and US,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an email.
The company is always available to discuss privacy and security with Canadians, the statement said. “Singing on TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve shared goals,” the email said. “All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform that millions of Canadians love.”