Federal government bans TikTok on all government-issued devices

February 27, 2023, 4:45 pm


The government of Canada has banned TikTok on all government-issued electronic devices, citing concerns over spying, the lack of protection of information the app collects from phones it is installed on, and concerns that installation of the app leaves phones vulnerable to cyberattack.

The President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier, issued a statement announcing the ban of the use of the TikTok application on government-issued mobile devices:

“The Government of Canada is committed to keeping government information secure. We regularly monitor our systems and take action to address risks.

“Effective February 28, 2023, the TikTok application will be removed from government-issued mobile devices. Users of these devices will also be blocked from downloading the application in the future. Following a review of TikTok, the Chief Information Officer of Canada determined that it presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.

"The decision to remove and block TikTok from government mobile devices is being taken as a precaution, particularly given concerns about the legal regime that governs the information collected from mobile devices, and is in line with the approach of our international partners. On a mobile device, 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.

“For the broader public, the decision to use a social media application or platform is a personal choice. However, 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.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada's decision to ban TikTok on government-issued mobile devices could be the start of a further crackdown on the video streaming platform.

"This may be a first step, it may be the only step we need to take, but every step of the way we’re going to be making sure that we’re keeping Canadians safe," Trudeau told reporters on Monday shortly after the government announced it would block the app on government devices.

"We have very important principles around protection of data, protection of Canadians’ safety and security that we will always step up for."

A memo to Global Affairs Canada employees earlier Monday said the government is banning TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices because the app may leave users vulnerable to cyber attacks.

"As of February 28, the TikTok app will be automatically removed and blocked from use on all government-issued mobile devices," senior department officials said in the memo.

"A review of the mobile application's behaviour … found that TikTok's data collection methods may leave users vulnerable to cyber attacks."

The memo was signed by the department's assistant deputy minister Stéphane Levesque, chief security officer Sébastien Beaulieu and chief information officer Jean Paul Donoghue.

Trudeau said Monday that the move to block TikTok on government phones may prompt the general public to stop using the platform.

"Certainly, I suspect that as the government takes the significant step of telling all federal employees that they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones, many Canadians from businesses to private individuals will reflect on the security of their own data and perhaps make choices in consequence."

Canada's privacy commissioner announced last week that he and three provincial counterparts are launching a joint investigation into TikTok.

The probe will look at whether the video streaming service's practices comply with Canadian privacy legislation, in particular whether "valid and meaningful consent" is being obtained for the collection and use of personal information," the commissioners said in joint statement.

The federal government's move follows similar actions in the US and EU. The U.S. banned TikTok from government-issued devices late last year. The European Commission enacted a similar ban last week.
The bans come amid increasing concern about TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which is based in China, and its treatment of user data.

The US Congress is considering legislation to ban TikTok across the country.