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Canada bans TikTok from being put on officials' devices due to 'unacceptable risk'

Published: 2023-02-28

The federal government of Canada has banned civil servants from using TikTok, a social network developed by Chinese company ByteDance, in their workplaces. Starting today, the app must be removed from all mobile gadgets owned by the agency due to unacceptable privacy and security risks, as well as controversial user data handling practices by the service.

It is argued that the decision was taken as a precautionary measure and in line with the movement of Canada's international partners. TikTok's data collection practices allegedly provide access to significant amounts of information on a smartphone. So far, according to the authorities, there is no evidence that any information has been compromised. In addition, federal employees still have the right to install TikTok on personal devices.

“From February 28, 2023, the TikTok app will be removed from government-owned mobile devices. Users of these devices will also be blocked from downloading the app in the future. After review, the CIO of Canada determined that the application poses an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” Mona Fortier, chair of the secretariat of the Treasury Board, said in a statement.

A TikTok spokesperson said the company was disappointed with the government's decision and stressed that the measures taken will prevent public officials from interacting with the public on the platform beloved by millions of Canadians.

In Canada, the question has already been raised about the possible influence of China with the help of TikTok on the elections in the country. According to some politicians, mass publications on the social network that affect the voting results could be coordinated by Chinese consulates in the country. It is known that Canada follows in line with the policy of the United States, which also banned the use of the application by the federal authorities under similar pretexts. According to the National Post, a bill is being considered in the US Congress to completely ban TikTok in the country, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not ruled out similar measures in Canada. Earlier, the European Commission announced the ban on the use of TikTok on the working devices of officials (official or personal, but used for work).

ByteDance has repeatedly stated that Canadian user data is stored securely in the US and Singapore and is not shared with Chinese authorities. However, last year the company acknowledged that Chinese employees had a channel to access personal information. Since ByteDance is headquartered in China, the developer's activities are subject to new local laws that allow authorities to access necessary data.

A report by Canada's Communications Security Center states that unfriendly states can influence vendors they control in order to ensure their national interests. Although China is not directly mentioned, the agency has repeatedly emphasized in the past that the country is the source of one of the largest cyber threats to Canada.