Canada bans TikTok on government devices over security risks – The Guardian

EU and parts of US already block access to Chinese-owned app amid concerns over data privacy and security
Canada has joined the US and EU in enacting a sweeping ban preventing TikTok from being installed on all government-issued mobile devices, as western officials take action over the Chinese-owned video-sharing app.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, did not rule out 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,” he said.
“I’m always a fan of giving Canadians the information for them to make the right decisions for them.”
The EU’s executive branch said last week it had temporarily banned TikTok from phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure. On Tuesday, the European parliament followed suit, banning staff from installing the app on any phone that had access to email or parliamentary networks.
In the US, more than half of the states and Congress have banned TikTok from official government devices. On Monday, the White House widened the ban to include all government agencies, giving federal employees 30 days to remove the app from their work devices.
TikTok is wildly popular with young people, but its Chinese ownership has raised fears that Beijing could be collecting data on western users or pushing pro-China narratives and misinformation. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020.
TikTok faces intensifying scrutiny from Europe and the US over security and data privacy amid worries that the app could be used to promote pro-Beijing views or sweep up users’ information. It comes as China and the west are locked in a wider tug of war over technology, from spy balloons to computer chips.
The company has faced some bruising scandals over the years. It admitted in December it had used its app to spy on a number of US journalists as part of a leak investigation and fired at least four staff as a result. Furthermore, it has repeatedly been shown to be less separate from its Chinese ownership than it claimed, with moderation guidelines (since revised) that advanced Beijing’s foreign policy and persistent links between the code base of TikTok and its mainland China sister app Douyin.
But despite investigations on different continents, no smoking gun has been found to demonstrate that TikTok’s data harvesting is anything more than the same “surveillance capitalism” that rivals such as Facebook and Instagram apply to sell targeted ads. Instead, TikTok has been asked to defend itself against charges of what it could do if the Chinese state forced its hand.
The Canadian treasury board president, Mona Fortier, said the federal government would also block the app from being downloaded on official devices in the future. Fortier said the chief information officer of Canada had determined it presented “an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security … On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone,” Fortier said.
“While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”
A TikTok spokesperson said in an email: “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 company said it was always available to discuss the privacy and security of Canadians. “Singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve that shared goal,” the spokesperson wrote. “All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform loved by millions of Canadians.”


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