Starting from Tuesday, TikTok will be banned from all government-issued devices in Canada as it poses an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security, according to a statement by a government spokesperson after a review by Canada’s chief information officer.
TikTok expressed disappointment over the decision.
Recently, the European Commission also announced a comparable ban.
The security concerns surrounding the app were deemed significant enough by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to necessitate the alteration.
“This may the first step, this may be the only step we need to take,” he said on Monday at a press conference near Toronto.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., has faced criticism for its connection to the Chinese government and its handling of personal information. Late last year, US federal employees were banned from using the app, and the White House recently instructed government agencies to remove the app from their systems within 30 days.
Some American universities have also prohibited the app on their networks, while India and several other Asian countries have implemented broader public bans.
The company has asserted that Chinese government officials do not have access to user data and that the Chinese version of the app is distinct from the version used worldwide.
However, the company acknowledged last year that some Chinese employees can access the data of European users.
The European Commission is scheduled to enforce a ban on TikTok for its employees on March 15. In Canada, privacy regulators are investigating the app over concerns about user data and the validity of consent for the collection of personal information.
A recent study by researchers at the Social Media Lab at Toronto Metropolitan University found that about 25% of Canadian adults use TikTok.
In a statement, Mona Fortier, the president of Canada’s Treasury Board, said the government “is committed to keeping government information secure”.
The app will be eliminated from government-issued phones this week, and its installation will be prohibited on other devices in the future.
“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone,” Ms Fortier said. “While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”
The country’s chief information officer is part of the Treasury Board, which supervises the activities of the federal government.
In a statement, a company spokesperson said the ban on government-issued devices happened “without citing any specific security concerns about TikTok or contacting us to discuss any concern prior to making this decision”.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
“All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform loved by millions of Canadians.”