Canada’s ban on the use of the popular but controversial short-form video application TikTok has come into effect for government-issued mobile devices.
And the country’s most popular politician on the app, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, is now planning to pause his use of the social media platform as he “evaluates the privacy risks.”
Singh, who has more than 870,000 followers on the application, also “won’t be using it on any government devices,” an NDP source said.
Treasury Board President Mona Fortier announced the ban on Monday, citing the risks the app poses to privacy and security.
“Following a review of TikTok, the Chief Information Officer of Canada determined that it presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” Fortier said in a statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, when pressed about the ban, said it “may be a first step” or it “may be the only step we need to take.”
Canadians, meanwhile, can continue to make a “personal choice” when it comes to whether to use the application, both Fortier and Trudeau said.
“I suspect that as government takes the significant step of telling all 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,” the prime minister said.
The Conservative Party did exactly that on Monday evening, with a party spokesperson confirming members of the caucus will suspend their use of the application.
Leader Pierre Poilievre also suspended his own account, which had grown to over 230,000 followers.
The decision to ban the popular app on government-issued devices comes after several other governing bodies have made similar decisions.
On Thursday morning, the European Commission announced an outright ban on the use of the application on its work phones — including personal devices that are enrolled in the commission’s “mobile device service.”
Just hours after Canada announced the ban, Washington issued a similar directive. All U.S. federal agencies have been given 30 days to wipe TikTok from their government devices.
The app has also been banned in India, and the United States is currently considering legislation to ban TikTok altogether amid fears it could be used to spy on Americans and censor content.
The concerns clouding the social media platform stem from TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
The company has faced criticism from those who warn that China’s government could access user data, such as browsing history and location — thanks to a Chinese law that requires private companies to cooperate with Beijing if asked.
In a statement sent to Global News on Monday, a spokesperson for TikTok questioned the timing of the government’s announcement.
“It’s curious that the Government of Canada has moved to block TikTok on government-issued devices—without citing any specific security concern or contacting us with questions—only after similar bans were introduced in the EU and the US,” the spokesperson said.
“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.”
The application, meanwhile, is facing increasing scrutiny from multiple Canadian probes.
Canada’s federal privacy watchdog also announced on Thursday that it is launching a joint investigation into TikTok with three provincial counterparts.
The investigation, the privacy commissioner’s office said, will dig into whether TikTok’s practices are “in compliance” with Canadian privacy legislation and whether “meaningful consent is being obtained for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.”
Of particular concern to the watchdogs is the privacy of the younger Canadians, who dominate the use of the application in the country.
A survey conducted by Toronto Metropolitan University’s Social Media Lab, released in September, found that just 26 per cent of all Canadians currently use TikTok. However, 76 per cent of those aged 18-24 have an account on the platform, it revealed.
Canadian MPs are also set to probe security concerns about the popular social media application at a parliamentary committee.
The House of Commons ethics committee voted earlier this month to undertake a study into TikTok and other social media platforms’ use “of private information of Canadians for the objective of data harvesting.”
TikTok was the most-downloaded application in 2022, according to Forbes.