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Canada bans TikTok on all government mobile devices

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a lectern
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a news conference Monday.
(Frank Gunn / Canadian Press)
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Canada has become the latest country to ban TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices, reflecting widening worries among Western officials over the Chinese-owned video-sharing app.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that it might be a first step to 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,” Trudeau said.

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“I’m always a fan of giving Canadians the information for them to make the right decisions for them,” he added.

The European Union’s executive branch said last week that it had temporarily banned TikTok from phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure.

The EU’s action follows similar moves in the U.S., where more than half of the states and Congress have banned TikTok from official government devices.

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Last week, Canada’s federal privacy watchdog and its provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec announced an investigation into whether the app complies with Canadian privacy rules.

TikTok is wildly popular with young people, but its Chinese ownership has raised fears that Beijing could use it to collect data on Western users or push pro-China narratives and misinformation. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020.

The intensifying scrutiny of the app comes as China and the West are locked in a wider tug-of-war over technology, including spy balloons and computer chips.

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Canadian Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said the federal government would also block the app from being downloaded on official devices in the future.

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Fortier said in a statement that the Canada’s chief information officer had determined that TikTok “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”

The app will be removed from Canadian government issued phones Tuesday.

“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.”

Recent media reports have also raised concerns about potential Chinese interference in recent Canadian elections, prompting opposition parties to call for a public inquiry into alleged foreign election interference.

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“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,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a email.

The company is always available to discuss the privacy and security of Canadians, the statement said.

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“Singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve that shared goal,” the email said. “All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform loved by millions of Canadians.”

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