In a move that has left the app developers disappointed, Canada has announced that it will ban the popular video-sharing app, TikTok, from all government-issued devices starting on Tuesday. The decision was made after a review conducted by Canada’s chief information officer revealed that the app “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security”. A government spokesperson made this announcement in a statement on Monday. This development came just a few days after the European Commission also announced a similar ban. The spokesperson stated that the decision was taken due to the concerns surrounding the security of the app.
During a press conference near Toronto on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that there were enough security concerns related to TikTok to necessitate the change. He further stated that this could be the first step in ensuring the safety of the information on government-issued devices, but it could also be the only step that they needed to take.
The short-form video app, which is owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance Ltd., has been receiving criticism for its use of personal information and its ties to the Chinese government. In the United States, federal employees were banned from using TikTok late last year, and on Monday, the White House issued a notice stating that government agencies had 30 days to remove the app from their systems. A number of American universities have also banned the app from being used on their networks. Similar bans have also been implemented in India and several other Asian countries.
In response to the concerns raised about the app’s ties to the Chinese government, the company has insisted that Chinese government officials do not have access to user data. They have also claimed that the Chinese version of the app is separate from the one used in the rest of the world. However, last year, the company admitted that some staff in China could access the data of European users. The app has also been under investigation by Canadian privacy regulators over concerns about user data, especially regarding whether the company obtains “valid and meaningful” consent from users when collecting personal information.
About a quarter of Canadian adults use the app, according to a recent survey by researchers at the Social Media Lab at Toronto Metropolitan University. In a statement, Mona Fortier, the president of Canada’s Treasury Board, said that the government “is committed to keeping government information secure”. She further stated that the app would be removed from government-issued phones this week and other devices and blocked from downloads in the future.
“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone,” Ms Fortier said. “While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.” The Treasury Board, which oversees the operations of the federal government, includes the country’s chief information officer.
In response to the ban, a spokesperson for TikTok stated that the company was always available to meet with government officials to discuss how they protect the privacy and security of Canadians. They added that the ban on government-issued devices happened “without citing any specific security concerns about TikTok or contacting us to discuss any concern prior to making this decision”. The spokesperson further stated that singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve the shared goal of protecting the privacy and security of Canadians.