The Canadian federal government is set to ban the popular Chinese social media app TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices over national security concerns, saying the platform presents an “unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
The decision was made by the Chief Information Officer of Canada, who issued a directive to Global Affairs Canada employees on Monday.
According to the directive, TikTok will be automatically removed and blocked from use on all government-issued mobile devices as of February 28.
The move comes amid concerns that the app’s data collection methods may leave users vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The decision to ban TikTok from government devices was taken as a precautionary measure, according to Treasury Board Secretary Mona Fortier.
“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.”
The directive was signed by Assistant Deputy Minister Stephane Levesque, Chief Security Officer Sebastien Beaulieu, and Chief Information Officer Jean Paul Donoghue, who stressed the importance of maintaining the security and protection of government information systems and networks.
Despite the ban, the federal government will continue to monitor the situation and work with “partners” to ensure the safety of its networks, the directive added.
While Canadians are free to choose which social media platforms they use, the communications security establishment has warned the public to fully understand the risks associated with using apps like TikTok.
The move by Canada follows similar bans by other countries, including the United States and India, over concerns that the app could be used for espionage by the Chinese government.
TikTok has denied these allegations and said that its user data is stored outside of China.
A spokesperson for the social media app said the government did not inform the company of the decision before 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 wrote in an email statement.
“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.”
TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, has become one of the most popular social media apps in the world, with over 1 billion users.
The app allows users to create and share short videos and has become a cultural phenomenon, particularly among younger generations.