Central Texas colleges and universities respond to nationwide TikTok challenges

WACO, TX (KWTX) — After Gov. Greg Abbott announced a ban on TikTok on government devices, some Central Texas colleges and universities implemented policies blocking the use of the video-sharing app on campus, while others continue to discuss possible policies.

Two of the five colleges and universities in Central Texas that KWTX spoke to said they had blocked the app on government devices.

Texas State Technical College is one of the institutions that implemented the campus ban shortly after Abbott’s announcement. The communications director said the college is a state agency, so CIO Shelley Scherwitz said the college has blocked device and Wi-Fi use of the app.

“We blocked it on our networks, and then we actually blocked it on our local workstations on our network,” she said. “Just like on your phone, where you can limit the amount of time your child spends on different apps in the game app by making changes to the settings, we can do this at any time. corporate level so that any traffic going to TikTok can’t actually get through.”

Scherwitz said the recent update to TikTok’s terms and agreements raised concerns. She said the new policy may allow the app to collect physical characteristics and user identification, also known as biometric data. She said this could mean that the app was collecting Face ID and fingerprints.

“This information is stored,” she said. “So, you have to ask yourself: “Do I really want the company to have access not only to my location, my SIM card, my contacts, but now to my biometric information?”

Scherwitz said ByteDance, which owns the app, is a Chinese company that may have access to users’ biometric data.

“China’s laws are different from US laws. Laws, so there’s a lot of scope for things to be used without your knowledge,” Sherwitz said. “In this world of cybersecurity, in this world that we are now living in, you need to be more aware than ever about how you use this data and how companies use your data… So, we all need to manage a little differently now with these new systems that are coming out.”

Texas A&M Central Texas followed the policy of Texas A&M in College Station. The school said it had blocked the use of TikTok on government devices and was working to block the use of Wi-Fi on campus.

Texas A&M Central Texas released the following statement:

“Based on orders and concerns from both the state and the federal government, Texas A&M has blocked access to TikTok from state-owned devices. In addition, we are in the process geo-restricting any download or app access from our campus Wi-Fi network, which means students, faculty, staff, and visitors will not be able to use the app while connected to an A&M server.”

Governor Abbott’s order can be read here.

The three schools contacted by KWTX are not banning the app right now.

Mary Hardin-Baylor University, McLennan Community College, and Baylor University have yet to ban the app. They said they are monitoring the situation and plan to discuss the use of the app on campus in the future.

UMHB has released the following statement to KWTX:

“UMHB has one official TikTok account that is rarely active. The university is currently monitoring the latest developments regarding TikTok and its use on Texas campuses.”

The MCC has informed KWTX that they are not currently banning it and have not yet discussed the matter, but it is on the school’s radar for future discussion.

Baylor stated that they are monitoring current issues across the country. Below is their statement:

“Like many higher education institutions across the country, Baylor University continues to monitor the TikTok situation very closely. We are certainly aware of the prevalence of TikTok usage among our current and future students. As we continue to monitor this, it is important to note that any decision will not be taken lightly.”

Scherwitz said students and staff are still allowed to use TikTok off campus or without logging into campus Wi-Fi.

She said she saw no outrage from students, except for a few questions about the new policy.

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