Aurora bans TikTok on city devices and networks

TikTok Ban Mississippi
Michael Dwyer/AP Photo
The TikTok logo is seen on a cell phone on Oct. 14, 2022.

Aurora has joined a growing list of organizations banning TikTok.

The Aurora City Council approved a resolution that prohibits the Chinese-owned popular video-sharing app on city-issued devices and from accessing the app via the city’s network on personal devices.

Council member Dustin Zvonek says the resolution addresses ongoing concerns over data security and privacy.

“The difference between TikTok and a lot of the other applications that have access to our data is the potential influence of the Chinese government and their willingness to use these types of platform for nefarious reasons to spy on American citizens,” Zvonek said.

TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. The ban would also extend to other apps owned by the company, such as Douyin, WeChat, Wexin, and any website developed by ByteDance or Tencent Holding Ltd.   

University campuses and local governments across the country have issued similar bans. Meanwhile, TikTok has been the focus of U.S. Congressional hearings this month. It’s also the target of FBI and Justice Department investigations. President Joe Biden approved a limited ban on TikTok in December 2022, prohibiting the use of the viral app on federal government devices. The ban did not include law enforcement, national security and security research purposes.  

Zachary Heaton, an Aurora resident and senior support engineer who works on cybersecurity software, believes the ban promotes fear instead of education.

“On a technical level, I can tell you that it's not going to increase your security posture nor your digital safety one bit,” Heaton said during the city council meeting’s public comments. “Banning them on your networks will not stop them from getting your information. They're more likely to get it from a Phish email that they send to [Mayor Mike] Coffman than they are to get it through TikTok.”

The resolution will allow the city’s IT department and information security division to create a program around evaluating cyber threats as they emerge.

“This is not our silver bullet, but this is something that will help enable us as a security organization to better risk quantifying the various vendors that we use,” said Tim McCain, Aurora Chief Information Security Officer. “At least based on the risk of geopolitical issues or locations that could impact the vendor's ability to service our constituents and our employees – or worse, provide a security or privacy risk.”

Councilwoman Alison Coombs called for amendments to remove language she called political. Those included references to TikTok, WeChat, other social media platforms, China and the Communist Party. The amendments were rejected. Coombs was the only dissenting vote on the resolution. Councilwoman Angela Lawson was absent from the meeting.

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