Canada announced a ban on Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from government-issued devices, saying it presents risk to privacy and security.
The move underscores the lobby against TikTok, owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, over concerns of its proximity to Beijing and hold over user data across the world, Reuters news report said.
TikTok has 113 million users in the United States engaging with the social video platform. The number of TikTok users in Indonesia is around 110 million. Brazil has almost 82 million users on TikTok watching short-videos as of January 2023.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that his government was looking carefully at how to ensure Canadians’ online safety.
“This may be a first step, it may be the only step we need to take,” he said referring to the action against TikTok.
The ban on TikTok would go into effect from Tuesday and federal employees would also be blocked from downloading the application in the future, according to a statement from Canada’s Treasury Board, which oversees the public administration.
TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said in the statement.
“While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised,” she said.
TikTok initially said it was disappointed by the decision, but later issued another statement to note that it was “curious” that Canada moved to block the app only after similar bans in the European Union and the United States.
The ban was issued “without citing any specific security concern or contacting us with questions,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The European Commission imposed a similar ban last week, while the U.S. Senate in December passed a bill to bar federal employees from using the app on government-owned devices. India banned TikTok in 2020.
Last week, Canada’s federal and three provincial privacy regulators said they were jointly investigating TikTok over concerns about the platform’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information.
The Treasury Board said in its statement that the decision to use a social media application or platform is a personal choice.
“The Communications Security Establishment’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre) guidance strongly recommends that Canadians understand the risks and make an informed choice on their own before deciding what tools to use.”