The Treasury Board of Canada announced on Monday that it has banned ByteDance-owned short form video app TikTok from all the devices issued by the Canadian government, saying ‘’it presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security’’.
Starting today, February 28, the app will be removed from government issued devices and those who use these devices won’t be able to install TikTok in the future again.
The ban follows similar bans in the United States and European Union over concerns that the Chinese government could use users’ data to access private information. While TikTok has repeatedly opposed this, it admitted last year that some of its employees in China could get access to data of European users.
Last Thursday, the European Commission ordered its staff to remove the app ‘’to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyber-attacks against the corporate environment of the Commission’’, adding that it’s also reviewing other social media platforms as well.
The same day, privacy protection authorities for Canada, Québec, British Columbia and Alberta said that they would jointly inspect the app.
The Treasury Board announced that it hasn’t found any proof that TikTok is being used by the Chinese government, but that it has made the decision as a ‘’precaution’’.
Mona Fortier, the President of the Treasury Board, said in a statement: ‘’The decision to remove and block TikTok from government mobile devices is being taken as a precaution, particularly given concerns about the legal regime that governs the information collected from mobile devices, and is in line with the approach of our international partners. On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone.’’
“While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised,’’ she added.
Following the announcement, a spokesperson for TikTok said that the Canadian government didn’t reach out to them and ask any questions before the ban.
“It’s curious that the Government of Canada has moved to block TikTok on government-issued devices — without citing any specific security concern or contacting us with questions — only after similar bans were introduced in the EU and the US,’’ the spokesperson said. “We are always available to meet with our government officials to discuss how we protect the privacy and security of Canadians, but singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve that shared goal.”