Canada is reportedly the latest jurisdiction to ban TikTok from government-issued devices. The US federal government, multiple states and the European Union have previously prohibited their workers from using the app on official devices.
According to a note sent to Global Affairs Canada employees that was obtained by the National Post, TikTok “will be automatically removed and blocked from use on all government-issued mobile devices.” The report suggests that the government will announce the policy, which is expected to be effective March 1st, on Tuesday.
“A review of the mobile application’s behavior in relation to the Policy on Service and Digital found that TikTok’s data collection methods may leave users vulnerable to cyber attacks,” the note purportedly reads. It may be the case that, similar to their counterparts in the US and EU, officials are concerned about the Chinese government gaining access to the data TikTok holds on Canadian citizens and residents. TikTok parent ByteDance is located in China, which has laws that force companies to share data with authorities when requested.
ByteDance has refuted suggestions that the Chinese government can access such data. It has claimed that Canadian user data is stored in the US and Singapore. However, it said that former employees in China and the US accessed data on American journalists, seemingly in an attempt to detect the sources of leaks from the company.
Canada’s Communications Security Establishment warned earlier this month that “adversary states can influence their domestic vendors to compromise products to advance their national interest, counter to Canadian clients’ interests and the interests of Canada,” but the report didn’t explicitly mention TikTok or China. The Canadian government, meanwhile, is facing scrutiny over possible Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, as the National Post notes.
“We’re disappointed that the Chief Information Officer of Canada has moved to block TikTok on government-issued mobile devices without citing any specific security concerns about TikTok or contacting us to discuss any concern prior to making this decision,” a TikTok spokesperson told Engadget. “We are always available to meet with our government officials to discuss how we protect the privacy and security of Canadians, but singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve that shared goal. All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform loved by millions of Canadians.”
Engadget has contacted the Canadian government for comment.
Update 2/27 12:35PM ET: Added TikTok’s statement.