Why is TikTok being banned from government devices?

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Each government organization that has banned TikTok from devices has cited security concerns. TikTok can collect lots of personal information from its users. In the app’s privacy policy, it states that, when you create an account, upload content, or interact with the platform in any way, TikTok can and will collect the following:

  • Any account and profile information (name, age, username, phone number, profile image, email, and password).
  • Any user-generated content uploaded to the app (audio recording, photos, comments, and videos).
  • Direct messages.
  • Any information used to purchase something through the app (card numbers, names, information from third-party payment apps, billing, and shipping address).

Some of TikTok’s information-gathering methods can be circumvented by taking steps like denying the app access to your contacts. But much of TikTok’s information gathering is automatic and cannot be stopped by the user. For instance, you must share:

  • Your device information (IP address, mobile carrier, and network type).
  • Your location.
  • Cookies.
  • Device metadata (describes how, when, and where your user-generated content was created).

Some governments are concerned there could be big problems if adversaries get hold of user data. It can be especially concerning if government officials with clearance to sensitive and classified information give away their personal data — and that’s why the ban on federal government-issued devices is being enforced.

Also: How to go live on TikTok (and how it can earn you real money)

Mona Fortier, president of Canada’s Treasury Board, told the BBC that the ban is a proactive measure to keep national secrets secure.

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

The European Commission said it’s banning the app to ensure that no data from members can be used against them in a possible cybersecurity attack. 

Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer, told the Associated Press that the ban is a step in the government’s commitment to “securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy.”

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