Salt Lake County bans TikTok on government devices amid data concerns

The prohibition in Utah’s most populous county comes nearly three months after Gov. Spencer Cox barred the app at the state level.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Salt Lake County Government Center in May 2022. Utah's most populous county banned the popular social media app TikTok on government-issued devices Tuesday, nearly three months after Gov. Spencer Cox announced a ban on state-owned devices.

If Salt Lake County employees want to use their government-issued devices to scroll through amusing videos, they will have to look somewhere other than TikTok.

The County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban the use of the popular social media app on county-owned units, joining the chorus of governments shunning the platform in recent months.

“After hearing the concerns by the White House, state of Utah, and several other government entities regarding data concerns with TikTok,” council Chair Aimee Winder Newton said in a text message, “the Salt Lake County Council decided to follow suit by banning TikTok on county devices.”

The video app has come under fire due to security concerns because its owner, ByteDance, is headquartered in China, where the government may force companies in the country to fork over user data.

Salt Lake County’s new policy includes exceptions that will allow visitors at county arts venues and libraries to continue using the app on personal devices that are connected to guest networks.

The district attorney’s office will also be allowed to use the app on the county’s network in investigations.

Salt Lake County’s ban came the same day U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce a bill that would empower the federal government to ban TikTok and other services that officials believe may pose a threat to national security.

“We have to recognize that we face geopolitical adversaries that are serious and threaten our security, our prosperity, and even the peace and freedom that we enjoy,” the Utah Republican told reporters. “This piece of legislation is designed to help protect Americans and protect America and our friends.”

In December, Gov. Spencer Cox banned the social media platform on state-owned devices, citing cybersecurity concerns.