On December 7, 2022, Governor Greg Abbott ordered all agencies in the state of Texas to ban TikTok from government devices, citing digital security concerns. Following Abbott’s announcement, a number of agencies followed suit with new policies. The following week, on Dec. 12, Collin County commissioners decided that the app would be banned from all networks and devices in the county, and on Dec. 28, the House of Representatives did the same.
Now it is the turn of the universities of North Texas to announce the ban. On January 17, both the University of Texas at Austin and Dallas announced that the app had been banned from campus networks.
“The university is taking these important steps to address the risks to the information contained on the university network and to our critical infrastructure,” Jeff Neyland, technology strategy adviser to the president, said in an email sent to UT-Austin students yesterday. “TikTok collects massive amounts of data from its users’ devices, including when, where and how they are online, and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government.”
Efforts to remove software from all computing devices owned by the university began Dec. 21, according to a statement from UT-Dallas, and it is now the turn to block access to TikTok on all devices connected to campus networks.
According to the report Texas TribuneThe University of North Texas at Denton has also banned TikTok from its networks.
Governor Abbott’s statement follows comments by FBI Director Chris Wray at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy on December 2, 2022. As speaker for the 2022 Josh Rosenthal Memorial, Ray expressed his concerns (via Associated Press) that the Chinese government had the ability to control the TikTok algorithm, allowing them to manipulate content and use it for influencer operations as well as user data collection.
“All these things are in the hands of a government that does not share our values and that has a mission that is very different from what is in the interests of the United States,” Ray said. “That should worry us.
In a statement, Abbott also asked the Texas Department of Information Resources to “develop a blueprint for other government agencies that will address vulnerabilities related to TikTok use on personal devices by January 15, 2023.”