TikTok banned from Canada and US government devices

28 Feb 2023

Image: © andrey/Stock.adobe.com

The decisions underline growing fears that TikTok may be giving private user data to the Chinese government for surveillance purposes.

Canada and the US are both moving to ban the TikTok app from the devices of government staff amid security concerns.

The TikTok app will be removed from Canada’s government-issued mobile devices today (28 February), according to a statement. The users of these devices will also be blocked from downloading the app in future.

Canada’s government said the move is a “precaution” and added that TikTok’s data collection methods provide “considerable access” to the contents of the phone it is installed on.

The precaution underlines growing fears that TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, may be providing private user data from around the world to the Chinese government for surveillance purposes.

Earlier this month, the European Commission asked all employees to delete the TikTok app from devices provided by the organisation by 15 March.

Canada’s Treasury Board president Mona Fortier said the government monitors its systems and regularly takes action to address risks. She also said cyber security guidance recommends that Canadians “understand the risks and make an informed choice on their own before deciding what tools to use”.

“Following a review of TikTok, the Chief Information Officer of Canada determined that [TikTok] presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” Fortier said.

“While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”

Meanwhile, the White House has ordered US federal agencies to start removing the TikTok app from their IT systems.

In a guidance memorandum issued yesterday (27 February), the White House has ordered all federal agencies to remove the app within 30 days and prohibit internet traffic from reaching the company.

Some states in the US have already banned the app on all devices belonging to officials. Last November, the US state of South Dakota banned the use of TikTok for government staff due to the “growing national security threat” posed by TikTok.

Governor Kristi Noem claimed at the time that China’s government gathers data from devices that access TikTok and uses this information to “manipulate the American people”.

TikTok caused concern in the EU last November when it confirmed that employees in China and a host of other countries have remote access to European user data. Until then, it was believed data was only stored in Singapore and the US.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic