Canada is banning TikTok from all government-owned devices beginning Tuesday, February 28, citing concerns over the massively popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app’s data-sharing practices with the Chinese government.
“Effective February 28, 2023, the TikTok application will be removed from government-issued mobile devices. Users of these devices will also be blocked from downloading the application in the future. Following a review of TikTok, the Chief Information Officer of Canada determined that it presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” Treasury Board Secretariat President Mona Fortier said in a statement on Monday.
Fortier added that the ban is a precaution and that there is no evidence that government information has been compromised.
The move follows the announcement from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and his provincial counterparts in BC, Ontario, and Quebec regarding the launch of a combined federal and provincial inquiry into the video-sharing app due to concerns about the platform’s acquisition, usage, and sharing of personal information.
“The investigation will also determine if the company is meeting its transparency obligations, particularly when collecting personal information from its users,” the commissioners said in a statement.
ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has expressed its disappointment in the move, and maintained that it would never turn over Canadian user data, which it claims is stored in the US and Singapore, to the Chinese government.
Late in December 2022, the Chinese tech firm launched an internal investigation and found that employees tracked multiple journalists covering the company, improperly gaining access to their location and user data in an attempt to determine whether they had been in the same locations as ByteDance employees.
They also admitted that US user data can and has been accessed through a backdoor channel by employees based in China. Additionally, the company’s China headquarters is covered by laws that authorize the authoritarian government to compel China-based businesses to share data as needed.
The ban also comes shortly after news about Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections surfaced.
The ban adds Canada to the list of governments and authorities around the world that have prohibited the app on government-issued devices and networks, including universities, over concerns that China could exploit the software to gather users’ data or advance its own goals.
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