Canada banning video app TikTok on government issued mobile devices
By Nojoud Al Mallees
The federal government is banning TikTok from government-issued mobile devices days after federal and provincial privacy commissioners began investigating the social media platform.
A statement from Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said the application will be removed from mobile devices on Tuesday.
The decision follows a review by the chief information officer of Canada, who determined that TikTok “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
“While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised,” Fortier said in the statement, adding the ban is a precautionary measure that brings Canada’s policy in line with international partners.
Both the U.S. and the European Union have recently banned government staff from using TikTok on work-issued devices.
While the ban doesn’t go as far as outlawing the app entirely in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it might encourage people and businesses to reflect on the security of their own data.
“I’m always a fan of giving Canadians the information for them to make the right decisions for them,” Trudeau said.
Errol Mendes, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said the ban on TikTok is “long overdue.”
Mendes said it was also likely an “inevitable” decision, given the privacy concerns and the fact that other countries already enacted similar bans.
The video platform has long been embroiled in privacy concerns because the Chinese government has a stake in its owner, ByteDance, and laws allow the country to access user data.
Last week, the federal privacy watchdog and its counterparts in B.C., Alberta and Quebec announced an investigation to delve into whether it complies with Canadian privacy legislation.
The ban comes at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions with China.
Earlier this month, the U.S. shot down a Chinese high-altitude balloon that had also flown through Canadian airspace, saying it was a suspected spy device. China’s government has said it was a weather balloon that went off course.
In addition, recent media reports have raised concerns about potential Chinese interference in the last two Canadian federal elections, prompting opposition parties to call for a public inquiry.
Mendes said the privacy concerns around TikTok pose concerns that extend beyond geopolitics, given the app’s massive popularity among youth.
He said it might be incumbent “on governments to also put out a major educational campaign to schools, universities, the media itself as to the dangers that TikTok is presenting to all the youth of Canada.”
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