The federal government is removing and blocking the video-sharing platform TikTok from all federal government devices, citing security reasons.
In an email sent to Global Affairs employees Monday, department officials said the Chief Information Officer of Canada made the decision following a review. The review found that TikTok’s data collection methods could lead to cyber attacks, the email said.
The app will be deleted and blocked on all government-issued mobile devices on Feb. 28. The National Post first reported the story.
“The Government of Canada continuously works to ensure the cyber security of our networks by identifying threats and vulnerabilities, including those on social media platforms,” the email said.
“The government will continue to monitor the situation and will work with partners to keep the information on our systems and networks secure.”
TikTok specializes in the sharing of short videos. Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance owns the platform; its ownership has raised concerns at a time of heightened tensions between China and the West.
Last week, Canada’s federal privacy regulator, along with three provincial counterparts, launched a joint probe of the platform’s collection, use and disclosure of users’ personal information.
Mona Fortier, the president of the treasury board, said in a statement that the chief information officer determined the app “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone,” Fortier said in the statement.
“While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”
Fortier added that the decision is in line with that of other governments.
The European Commission and European Council have banned TikTok on work devices, as have several American state governments. Most United States federal government employees are also barred from having the app on their government-issued phones, and the United States Congress is debating a bill which would ban TikTok across the country.
In response to a question from CBC News Monday, Trudeau did not say whether his government is considering a country-wide ban.
“This may be a first step. It may be the only step we need to take, but every step of the way, we’re going to be making sure we’re keeping Canadians safe,” Trudeau told a news conference.
“Certainly, I suspect that as government takes the significant step of telling all federal employees they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones, many Canadians … will reflect on the security of their own data and perhaps make choices in consequence.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last year that Canada’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is watching TikTok “very carefully.”
TikTok responds to ban
A TikTok spokesperson said the government did not inform the company of the decision before to the announcement.
“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,” the spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.
“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.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has been a prolific user of TikTok. He has nearly 880,000 followers on the platform.
“We take all security concerns seriously and we will comply with any directives issued about banning TikTok from government devices to ensure that information is protected,” Singh said in a statement Monday.
“When security and intelligence agencies express concerns about digital platforms, Canadians expect elected officials to threat them seriously and take necessary action.”