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TikTok banned from City of Calgary electronic devices

The City of Calgary has followed other orders of government in banning the social media platform TikTok on city-owned devices.

They joined the federal and Alberta governments Wednesday in locking the platform out of those devices.

Cybersecurity experts and Western intelligence agencies have accused TikTok of providing complete access to the personal information located on phones on which the social media application is installed.

“Following the insight shared with The City of Calgary from The Government of Canada and The Government of Alberta on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Information Technology reviewed the risks for the organization and individuals involved and made the decision to remove and block further downloading of the TikTok app from City iPhones and iPads on Wednesday, March 1, 2023,” read an emailed statement from the City’s Information Technology business unit.

“This decision was made to protect The City’s information and technology environment against significant security and privacy threats.”

The site will also be blocked on other city-owned devices.

Bytedance, the company that created Tik Tok, has maintained that information it collects from users is not held in China or shared with the Chinese state.

A half-dozen countries and governmental organizations, including Canada, the U.S., and European Union bodies have banned the app from being used on government phones because of national security concerns.

The province said that although there haven’t been any incidents of spying or security breaches due to TikTok, they are taking the proactive measure to safeguard IT assets.

“As part of our commitment to ensuring the integrity of all government IT devices, we have conducted a risk assessment of TikTok and have decided to remove and ban the application from all government devices,” read an emailed statement from the province.

“This will include all desktops, laptops, and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.”

The province also said that securing its IT network is a top priority. They will be automating the removal of TikTok from government devices. They are encouraging staff to remove it immediately.

Councillors have used TikTok

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said she used the social media platform during the 2021 Calgary municipal election campaign. She’s also used it as a councillor, on occasion. All of the use is on her personal phone, not the corporate-issued device. She said she doesn’t have the app on her city smartphone.

Still, the city’s ban is a reason for pause to collect more information on the risks, Penner said. Even for her own personal phone.

“I’m currently interested for me personally, but then also to make sure that if I were to continue to use the platform, under what circumstances would be the best use of it,” she said.

Penner said it’s a valuable tool to reach a segment of Calgary’s population that isn’t necessarily being engaged. TikTok is one of the most-used platforms by younger people.

“I get it, but I also am like, are we losing out on potential dialogue?” Penner said.

Coun. Penner said she agrees with the City taking the appropriate precautions to protect the IT infrastructure.

“Without being a digital security expert, I think that it is important that governments are aligned in their policy. I think it’s important that we take digital security concerns seriously,” she said.