After the United States and the European Union, now Canada has decided to ban TikTok from all government-issued devices.
The popular short-form video hosting service owned by Chinese Technology conglomerate ByteDance has been a cause of concern for the US government for a while, and now Canada has said that the app "presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security", reported the National Post.
Canada on Monday (February 27) announced the ban on TikTok from government-issued devices, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that his government was looking carefully at how to ensure Canadians' online safety. "This may be a first step, it may be the only step we need to take," he said referring to the action against TikTok.
The Canadian government said that the ban would go into effect from Tuesday (February 28) and federal employees would also be blocked from downloading the application in the future.
Canada's Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said that TikTok's data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone. "While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised," she said.
Last week, Canada's federal and three provincial privacy regulators said they were jointly investigating TikTok over concerns about the platform's collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.
The Treasury Board said in its statement that the decision to use a social media application or platform is a personal choice. "The Communications Security Establishment's Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre) guidance strongly recommends that Canadians understand the risks and make an informed choice on their own before deciding what tools to use," the statement read.
TikTok initially said it was disappointed by the decision, but later issued another statement saying that it was "curious" that Canada moved to block the app only after similar bans in the European Union and the United States.
The ban was issued "without citing any specific security concern or contacting us with questions," a TikTok spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
There is a growing perception among US lawmakers that the Chinese app privately steals the data of US citizens which can be used by the Chinese government. The calls for banning TikTok in the US gathered momentum in November 2022, when US FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the Chinese application could harness the application to influence users and control their devices.
Former President Donald Trump had formally signed an executive order effectively banning TikTok within the United States. TikTok sued, and the ban was never enforced
In 2020, the US government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews US acquisitions by foreign companies for potential security risk, ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok because of fears that user data of US citizens could be passed to the Chinese Communist government. This was also the same year when the Indian government banned TikTok following deadly clashes at the Galwan valley in Ladakh.
The European Commission imposed a similar ban last week, while the US Senate in December passed a bill to bar federal employees from using the app on government-owned devices. India banned TikTok in 2020.
Even if we leave aside the ban by Canada on TitTok, Sino-Canadian relations have been tense in recent years for various reasons. Canada in the past has accused that China has tried to influence its elections and that it has been running air and maritime surveillance activities in their country.
China-Canada relations have been strained since December 2018 when Canada detained Huawei CFO, Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the United States, which sparked a diplomatic row between China and Canada. The subsequent arrest and detention of two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in China, further escalated tensions between the two countries.
Canada has also previously excluded Chinese firms from Canada's critical minerals and telecommunication sectors, citing risks to its national security. In November last year, Ottawa ordered three Chinese companies to divest their investments in Canadian critical minerals.