Time’s up for TikTok at Hamilton City Hall

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Published March 3, 2023 at 4:09 pm

The City of Hamilton has logged out of Tik Tok due to the “potential security risks,” following suit with the feds and other levels of government.

Provincial and federal privacy watchdogs recently announced an investigation delving into whether TikTok, a Chinese-owned video-sharing platform, complies with Canadian privacy legislation. The federal government and House of Commons banned the app from government-owned devices earlier this week. The provinces of Alberta, Nova Scotia, Québec, and Saskatchewan have acted similarly, and so has the city of Calgary. Ontario is reviewing the matter.

Hamilton launched a communications TikTok account five weeks ago on Jan. 25. That will be made dormant, and the app will not be allowed on city-issued devices.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in consultation with the City’s IT (information technology) division, Senior Leadership and social media team, the City will be removing the TikTok app from City devices and will be prevented from use on City of Hamilton devices going forward,” a statement issued on Friday reads. “In addition, the City’s Communications TikTok account will be paused and made dormant.

“The City of Hamilton’s IT division has not identified any specific security risks at this time,” the release adds.

The app has 1 billion users — around a third as many as Meta/Facebook and nearly half as many as YouTube, but over thrice as many as Twitter. THe city says it saw TikTok “as an opportunity to reach residents in a new, fun way. Staff met with TikTok staff in December 2022 to set up the account, and at that time discussed related news from the United States and concerns about security. City staff
also led a Canada-wide environmental scan to determine use of TikTok by government and felt comfortable based on accounts that were active across Canada.”

But the chief information officer of Canada reviewed TikTok and determined it posed an “unacceptable” level of risk to privacy and security, which led to the governmental action. Government agencies in the United States have been given four weeks to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems, and the European Union has acted similarly.

The company that owns TikTok maintains that it does not share data with China’s government and its data is not held in that country.

The City of Hamilton maintains an active Twitter presece and also streams public meetings through its YouTube channel. An app called HSRNow is also available for Hamilton Street Railway riders. But Hamilton is an anomaly among large Canadian cities in not having 3-1-1 service for non-emergency calls to the municipality.

— with cover image and files from The Canadian Press

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