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Canada enforces nationwide TikTok ban on government devices

TikTok displayed on mobile with on screen Canada flag, seen in this photo illustration
Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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    Canada has banned TikTok from all government-issued devices beginning today, trailing the U.S. and European Union (E.U.) in enacting similar directives.

    For years, the Chinese social video app, owned by Beijing-based parent company Bytedance, has been accused of harnessing user data for the benefit of the Chinese government. Canada’s decision reportedly came after its chief information officer determined that the app presents “an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”

    At a news conference Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the ban may be the “first” and “only step we need to take.”

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

    The chief information officer is part of Canada’s Treasury Board, which oversees operations of the federal government, according to the BBC. In a statement, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said that while there was no evidence that government information has been compromised through TikTok, the “risks of using this application are clear.”

    Last week, the E.U.’s executive branch, the European Commission, announced that TikTok will be banned from government devices starting March 15. 

    Spokesperson Sonya Gospodinova said the policy seeks to protect the commission against “cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyberattacks.”

    In the U.S., the White House on Monday gave government agencies 30 days to remove TikTok from their devices, according to Reuters. 

    The ban was imposed by Congress last December and follows similar actions undertaken by federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and the White House itself.

    So far, at least 32 out of 50 U.S. states have enforced similar bans on government devices. Florida’s Department of Financial Services was the first state agency to do so on Aug. 11, 2020, while Nebraska became the first to order a state-wide ban the next day.

    TikTok, for its part, has repeatedly pushed back against allegations and slammed Canada’s latest action.

    “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 U.S.,” a company spokesperson said in an email, according to AP News.

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