The Government of Canada banned social media platform TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices citing potential cybersecurity concerns.
The ban goes into effect on Tuesday. Federal employees will be blocked from downloading the application in the future, according to a statement from Canada’s Treasury Board.
The move follows decisions made by the European Union and the United States, which recently placed restrictions on the platform
The United States Armed Forces have also banned the app from military devices. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated it might be a first step to a further action.
“I suspect that as government takes the significant step of telling all federal employees that they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones many Canadians from business to private individuals will reflect on the security of their own data and perhaps make choices,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The FBI and Federal Communications Commission in the US have warned that ByteDance could be sharing TikTok user data with China’s authoritarian government.
ByteDance is a Chinese technology company that social media platforms, including TikTok, Toutiao, and Vigo Video. The company moved to Singapore but still shares ties with the Chinese communist party.
TikTok represents potential security issue
The variety of information potentially shared includes names, email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses. It could also access user activity data such as the videos watched, comments made, and accounts followed. Additionally, China could access data about the device used to access the app, including IP addresses and device identifiers.
The social media platform has drawn concerns from Washington that China would use regulatory avenues to seize American user data, or try to push misinformation or a pro-China narrative.
🚨As of today, the TikTok app will be removed and blocked from use on all government-issued mobile devices. 🚨
— CSIS Canada (@csiscanada) February 28, 2023
President Donald Trump and his administration sought to force TikTok’s owner to sell off its US assets and remove it from app stores. The courts blocked Trump’s efforts. President Joe Biden eliminated Trump’s orders after taking office and ordered an in-depth study of the issue.
Earlier this month, Canada’s federal privacy watchdog, along with its provincial versions in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, launched an investigation into whether the app complies with Canadian privacy legislation.
TikTok ban reflects insecurities: China
TikTok is the second most popular domain in the world and is regularly used by two-thirds of American teens, according to a survey performed by the Pew Research centre. Users can create and share short videos using a variety of filters and effects. The user-engagement driven app employs algorithms to match content to your personal interests.
The Chinese response to the ban is that this reveals Washington’s own insecurities, said Mao Ning, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson at a daily briefing on Tuesday.
Ning accused the US government of abusing state power to suppress other countries’ companies.
“How unsure of itself can the U.S., the world’s top superpower, be to fear a young person’s favorite app to such a degree?”
The White House has issued a thirty-day directive to all federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. China has a long history of blocking foreign social media platforms and messaging apps. These include YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.