Canada is going to ban TikTok on government mobile devices

Pierluigi Paganini March 01, 2023

The Canadian government announced it will ban the video app TikTok from all government-issued devices over security concerns.

Canada is going to ban the popular Chinese video-sharing app TikTok from the mobile devices of its employees over security concerns. The app will be removed from government devices this week.

The app “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” explained Canada’s chief information officer.

The app developed by the Chinese firm ByteDance has over 1 billion active users worldwide, it has come under close scrutiny in the US and other countries for its alleged link with the Government of Beijing.

The US already warned of the alleged link between the Chinese company and the Communist Party, accusing TikTok of collecting and sharing data for Chinese intelligence.

Last week, the European Union has banned the popular Chinese video-sharing app TikTok from the mobile devices of its employees over security concerns. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this move might be a first step to further action or that it might be it.

“This may the first step, this may be the only step we need to take,” Prime Minister at a press conference near Toronto.

TikTok is also under the scrutiny of Canadian privacy regulators that are investigating whether the company obtains valid and meaningful consent from users when collecting their personal information.

“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone,” Mona Fortier, the president of Canada’s Treasury Board, said. “While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.”

Source: Messagero

TikTok was disappointed by the decision of the Canadian Government that according to the Chinese firm did not provide evidence of risks posed by the mobile app.

“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,” said a company spokesperson. “All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform loved by millions of Canadians.”

A similar move was adopted by the US Government that is banning the use of TikTok on all government devices by the end of February 2023 due to national security concerns related to TikTok’s ties to China

In January 2020, the US Army banned the use of the popular TikTok app on mobile phones used by its personnel for security reasons.

In November, the short-form video-sharing service updated its privacy policy for European Economic Area (“EEA”), the UK, and Switzerland and confirmed that its users’ data can be accessed by its personnel, including Chinese employees.

European user data could be also accessed by TikTok staff in Brazil, Canada and Israel as well as the US and Singapore, where user data is currently stored.

In December, TikTok parent company ByteDance revealed that several employees accessed the TikTok data of two journalists to investigate leaks of company information to the media. 

According to an email from ByteDance’s general counsel Erich Andersen which was seen by the AFP news agency, the Chinese company was attempting to discover who shared company information with a Financial Times reporter and a former BuzzFeed journalist.

The company fired an undisclosed number of employees who were involved in the data leak because they violated the company’s Code of Conduct, but it did not reveal their names.

In an attempt to discover the location of the unfaithful employees, the Chinese personnel analyzed their IP addresses, but this method was approximate.

While Western governments are banning the app from government devices, the company announced that it plans to open two more European data centers to allay data privacy and security concerns.

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook and Mastodon

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Canada)

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