by Cora Smith, for Community News Service
The Vermont Agency of Digital Services banned use of the popular app TikTok on all state-owned devices, joining more than half the states and the federal government as concerns about the app’s Chinese ownership continue to swirl.
Some universities across the U.S. have done the same, but so far none in Vermont has banned the app.
Announcing the decision Feb. 16, digital services secretary Shawn Nailor cited U.S. intelligence agencies assessments “about the potential for Chinese intelligence and security services to use Chinese information technology firms as routine and systemic espionage platforms against the United States and allies.”
State agencies and agency employees are barred from downloading or using TikTok on state-owned electronic devices.
“This isn’t something that was an overnight decision,” Nailor said in an interview.
“We take a broad look at cybersecurity, and it is a part of everything we do now,” Nailor said. “It is not something that is an afterthought … it is something we’re looking at continuously.”
Nailor worries that if the Chinese government were able to access even one set of state employee credentials, it could hack into the state’s overarching information system and interfere with state services like unemployment benefits.
The Agency of Digital Services has “a significant number of strategies” when it comes to cybersecurity, Nailor said.
“Everything from a training program by which we use online training tutorials every couple of months to all state staff to keep them aware and up to date so that they practice good cyber hygiene … to some very complex technical things that I would rather not share because that can compromise how we’re protecting Vermonters,” Nailor said.
Some colleges across the country have banned or are considering banning TikTok from university-owned devices, too. At least five colleges in Texas have imposed some form of restriction on the app, along with big-name public schools like Auburn University and University of Oklahoma.
So far, colleges in Vermont are not banning the app.
Enrique Corredera, a University of Vermont spokesperson, said that “UVM is closely monitoring evolving state and federal regulations related to TikTok and, as always, considering rules and methods that enhance cybersecurity on UVM networks and devices. We currently have no broad TikTok ban.”
Saint Michael’s College in Colchester is in a similar boat.
“To my knowledge, Saint Michael’s College has not considered banning TikTok on an institutional level,” said college spokesperson Elizabeth Murray. “The Office of Marketing and Communication does not use TikTok as part of its social media plan, and it does not have plans to do so at this point.”
Middlebury College also is monitoring the situation, but has no current plans to ban the app from campus. Community College of Vermont does not use TikTok as an institution, so is also not considering a ban.
Read the original story in the Times Argus.
Categories: State Government