Post-secondary institutions across Canada have issued warning around TikTok

No plans have been put in place by Langara College to ban the app on campus

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By Mateo Muego

Many post-secondary institutions in B.C. are being cautious with TikTok after the federal and B.C. governments banned TikTok on all government-issued devices.  

While dozens of U.S. colleges and universities, including Florida A&M University, have banned TikTok from their schools, most B.C. post-secondary institutions have only issued warnings for the time being. Langara, Douglas and UBC have cautioned their communities about the use of TikTok, citing cybersecurity risks. 

On March 14, Langara issued a warning to faculty and staff and said it would evaluate the risks. 

At the moment, there is no plan to prohibit the app on post-secondary institutions’ networks for students, said Melody Wey, communications manager for the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. 

The main fears surrounding TikTok are the fact that the app collects data from its users and is connected to China. 

“[TikTok] collects as much data as any other social networking apps,” said UBC computer security professor Konstantin Beznosov. “The only difference is that TikTok is owned by a company located in China.”  

He said universities and colleges should not panic and that governments are more anxious about what TikTok could do with the collected data versus what they have actually done with it.  

“TikTok is not the case of smoking gun, it’s the case of loaded gun,” said Beznosov. 

Instead of banning TikTok from school devices, and students from using the app at school, Beznosov suggested post-secondary institutions alternately “improve the awareness of the risks” of using apps that collect user data.  

Currently, the only post-secondary institution in Canada to ban TikTok is Saskatchewan Polytechnic.  

Mark Dawson, manager of public affairs for Langara College, said TikTok is popular with Generation Z, so it can be useful to connect with current or future students.  

According to Statista.com, over 40 per cent of TikTok users are aged 18-29. This overlaps heavily with the Langara student population, of which 69.4 per cent are under the age of 25. 

Langara’s TikTok account is currently the smallest of its social media accounts and the only one not advertised online or on campus.  

The account has under 600 followers while the college’s Twitter account has nearly 3,000 followers. Its Instagram has 22,500 followers and its Facebook account has 34,000 followers.   

“It’s only one of many platforms, and there is significant overlap between the platforms among users,” said Dawson. 

Dawson said many colleges and universities are focusing on growing their social media presence on other platforms because TikTok is less educational and informative than others.  

“Social media users should pay close attention to the terms of service and how their personal data might be collected or accessed,” said Dawson. 

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