Canada announced Monday that it will ban the use of TikTok on all government mobile devices, reflecting growing concerns from Western officials about the Chinese-owned app.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented that it may be a first step in taking new measures.
“I imagine that when the government takes the important step of informing all federal employees that they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones, many Canadians, from businesses to individuals, will think about the security of their private data and possibly make decisions,” Trudeau said.
Last week, Canada’s federal privacy watchdog and its provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec announced an investigation to review whether the app complies with Canadian privacy law.
Similarly, last week the European Commission banned the use of TikTok on phones used by its employees as a cybersecurity measure.
The EU’s decision follows similar measures in the United States, where more than half of states and Congress have banned the use of TikTok on government devices.
TikTok is hugely popular among young people, but its Chinese ownership has raised concerns that Beijing could use it to collect user data from Western countries to push pro-Chinese narratives and disinformation. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020.
It comes as China and the West are locked in a broader conflict over technology ranging from spy balloons to computer chips.
Canada Treasury Board Chair Mona Fortier said the federal government will also ban downloads of the app on official devices in the future.
Fortier said in a statement that Canada’s chief information officer determined it “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
The app will be removed from Canadian government phones on Tuesday.
“It is curious that the Canadian government decided to ban TikTok on government devices — without pointing out any specific security issues or contacting us with questions — only after similar bans were imposed in the European Union and the United States,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an email.
The email says the company is always available to discuss Canadians’ privacy and security. “Singularizing TikTok in this way does nothing towards that common goal,” he adds. “All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform that millions of Canadians love.”