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UT-Austin blocks access to TikTok on campus Wi-Fi networks

The University of Texas at Austin has blocked access to the TikTok video-sharing app on its Wi-Fi and wired networks in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent directive requiring all government agencies to remove the app from government devices. letter sent to students on Tuesday.

“The university is taking these important steps to address the risks to the information contained on the university network and to our critical infrastructure,” UT-Austin Technology Advisor Jeff Neyland wrote in an email. “As outlined in the Governor’s directive, TikTok collects vast amounts of data from its users’ devices, including when, where and how they engage in online activity, and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government.”

TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. Last month, FBI Director Chris Ray raised national security concerns about the Chinese government’s ability to potentially collect user data and use the app’s algorithms to “manipulate content” and “use it for influence operations.” ”

Abbott’s Dec. 7 directive states that all government agencies must prohibit employees from downloading or using the app on government devices, including mobile phones, laptops, and desktop computers, with the exception of law enforcement agencies. He also directed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Information Resources to develop a plan to help government agencies deal with the use of TikTok on personal devices, including those that access a government official’s email account or connect to a government agency network. This plan was to be distributed to government agencies by 15 January.

Each government agency is expected to develop its own policy regarding the use of TikTok on personal devices by February 15th.

More than half of US states have banned the use of the social media app on government devices to some extent in recent months, according to a CNN analysis. Across the country, a growing number of universities are banning the app on devices connected to campus networks, including Auburn University in Alabama, the University of Oklahoma, and schools in the Georgia university system.

The ban could have serious implications, especially at universities catering to undergraduate students, a key demographic using the app. University admissions offices have used it to connect with applicants, and many athletics departments have used TikTok to promote sports events and teams. It’s also unclear how the ban will affect educators who research the app, or professors who teach in fields such as communications or public relations, where TikTok is a widely used medium.

Representatives from other major state universities, including Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University and the University of Houston, did not immediately respond to questions about whether university leaders plan to take similar steps on their campuses.

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