Last Updated: February 28, 2023, 13:10 IST
TikTok has been banned from all government-issued mobile devices in Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that this is just the beginning of greater measures. The European Union’s executive branch announced last week that it has temporarily blocked TikTok on employee phones as a cybersecurity safeguard. Similar actions have been carried out in the United States, where more than half of the states and Congress have banned TikTok from official government equipment, as per a report by the Associated Press said.
Following the conflict with China, India banned the app outright in 2020, saying a legislation that empowers the government to restrict websites and apps in the benefit of the country’s “sovereignty and integrity.”
The move was also praised by various global cyber security experts. Mark Shmulik, a Bernstein analyst, told the South China Morning Post said in the height of political pressure for US to follow suit, India’s actions were “a useful proxy” as it was huge market similar to the US that banned “an app that’s at the top of its popularity.”
Brendan Carr, a senior Republican on the US Federal Communications Commission, also recently said that India’s decision to prohibit TikTok two and a half years ago set a “extremely important precedent” and that TikTok was “a sophisticated monitoring tool.”
Who Owns TikTok?
ByteDance, a Chinese business with its headquarters in Singapore, owns TikTok. Critics claim that the Chinese government might access user data such as browsing history and location. The app is likewise forbidden on military smartphones in the United States, explains a report by Associated Press.
As per the report, TikTok is used by two-thirds of American teenagers and has become the world’s second-most popular domain. But, there has long been bipartisan fear in Washington that Beijing might use its legal and regulatory authority to grab American user data or to spread pro-China narratives or falsehoods.
Canada, US and EU’s Problems With Tiktok
- TikTok is extremely popular among young people, but its Chinese ownership has generated concerns that Beijing may be gathering data on western users or spreading pro-China narratives and falsehoods, says a report by the Guardian.
- TikTok is facing increased scrutiny from Europe and the United States over security and data privacy, amid concerns that the software might be used to push pro-Beijing viewpoints or collect user data. It comes amid a wider tug of war between China and the West over technologies ranging from surveillance balloons to computer chips.
- Mona Fortier, the president of Canada’s Treasury Board, stated that the federal government would likewise prevent the software from being downloaded on official devices in the future. Fortier stated that it “presents an unacceptable level of danger to privacy and security,” as evaluated by Canada’s chief information officer. On Tuesday, the app will be withdrawn from Canadian government-issued phones.
- “With a mobile device, TikTok’s data harvesting methods allow significant access to the phone’s contents,” Fortier explained. Concerns have been made in the media regarding probable Chinese meddling in recent Canadian elections, causing opposition parties to ask for a public inquiry into alleged foreign election meddling.
- Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. have warned that TikTok user data could be shared by owner ByteDance Ltd. with China’s authoritarian government. Fears were stoked by news reports last year that a China-based team improperly accessed data of U.S. TikTok users, including two journalists, as part of a covert surveillance program to ferret out the source of leaks to the press.
- There are also concerns that the company is sending masses of user data to China, in breach of stringent European privacy rules.
- Additionally, there’s been concern about TikTok’s content and whether it harms teenagers’ mental and physical health. In a recent example, the diabetes drug Ozempic became a social media phenomenon for its weight loss properties, but its soaring popularity led to global shortages and doctors warn about the potential side effects. Videos under the hashtag #Ozempic have nearly 600 million views on TikTok, where many users regularly update followers about their weight loss. “Losing 40 kilograms (88 pounds) in less than three months is possible” thanks to Ozempic, a French TikToker said in a typical post in December with nearly 50,000 views.
WHAT DOES TIKTOK SAY?
“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. 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,” a TikTok spokesperson said in an emailed statement to the Associated Press.
With inputs from the Associated Press, AFP
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