On Dec. 7, 2022, Governor Greg Abbott ordered all Texas state agencies to ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices alleging digital security concerns. Since Abbott’s announcement, there’s been a streak of agencies following suit with the new policy. The following week on Dec. 12, Collin County Commissioners decided that the app would be banned on all county networks and devices, and on Dec. 28 the House of Representatives did the same.
Now it’s the turn of North Texas universities to announce the ban. On Jan. 17, both the University of Texas in Austin and Dallas announced the app was banned from the campus networks.
“The university is taking these important steps to eliminate risks to information contained in the university’s network and to our critical infrastructure,” the email sent yesterday to UT-Austin students by Jeff Neyland, advisor to the president of technology strategy read. “TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices — including when, where and how they conduct internet activity — and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government.”
According to UT-Dallas’ announcement, efforts to remove the software from all University-owned computing devices began on Dec. 21 and now it was the turn to block access to TikTok on all devices connected to the campus networks.
According to a report by the Texas Tribune, the University of North Texas in Denton also banned TikTok on its networks.
Gov. Abbott’s announcement followed FBI Director Chris Wray’s comments made at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy on Dec. 2, 2022. As the 2022 Josh Rosenthal memorial speaker, Wray expressed his concerns (via Associated Press) that the Chinese Government had the ability to control TikTok’s algorithm, allowing them to manipulate content and use it for influence operations as well as collecting data on users.
“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States,” said Wray. “That should concern us.”
In his statement, Abbott also asked the Texas Department of Information Resources to “develop a model plan for other state agencies that would address vulnerabilities presented by the use of TikTok on personal devices by January 15, 2023.”