Aurora, CO

Aurora may ban TikTok due to Chinese influence

David Heitz
Photo byEyestetics Studio/Unsplash

An Aurora City Council member doesn’t want China snooping on the city.

He has drafted a bill that would prohibit Aurora city employees from downloading certain messaging and video apps onto city property or any device used to access city networks. The resolution points to China’s influence on the apps as a potential security breach.

"The apps were recently described to me as millions of spy balloons across the nation under our own roofs," council member Dustin Zvonek said.

According to the resolution, TikTok, Douyin, WeChat, Weixin, and websites developed by ByteDance Ltd. and Tencent Holding Ltd., are media platforms with affiliation to the government of the
People’s Republic of China. ”Whereas TikTok and WeChat are owned by ByteDance Ltd., a Chinese company that employs Chinese Communist Party members,” the resolution reads, listing several additional whereas statements, including:

· “China has a history of amassing large amounts of data on their own citizens and those around the world including individuals in the United States.

· “It is critical that the City of Aurora and its networks are protected from the
vulnerabilities presented by the use of these platforms.

· “These platforms and websites harvest significant amounts of data from a user’s device, including details about a user’s internet activity even when the platforms are not in use.

· “These platforms and websites can also harvest significant amounts of data from the city’s networks.

· “This data can reveal sensitive information that can be leveraged or exploited against
the City.”

Item skipped committee

Councilmember Dustin Zvonek said he did not bring the ordinance to a council committee first for discussion. He said he will find out at the City Council meeting on Monday whether there is any pushback.

The meeting is a study session, so even if Zvonek’s proposal receives a warm reception, it still must be approved at a regular City Council meeting to become law.

The federal government is considering a similar law. “Concerns around TikTok’s security risk come down to two main issues. The first is who can access U.S. consumer information and the second is who has the ability to determine what information reaches U.S. users,” according to CNBC. “Under Chinese law, companies can be required to hand over internal information to the government for supposed national security purposes. TikTok has sought to reassure the U.S. government that U.S. user data is stored outside of China.”

Aurora may allow use of the apps under special circumstances. "If a city department has a valid
reason to access these platforms, the department will need to request approval for that use through the Information Security Office (ISO)," according to the resolution. "That request must be limited to a small number of end user devices to have access to these platforms. Once approved by the ISO it must then be sent to the city manager for approval."

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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