TikTok removed from UWEC-owned devices

UW System bans TikTok on all university-owned devices

Maddie Kasper

More stories from Maddie Kasper


Photo by UW-Eau Claire

Paula Gilbeck said the UW System decided to be proactive after Gov. Ever’s executive order.

Video-sharing app TikTok has been removed from all devices owned by UW-Eau Claire at the request of the UW System, as of Friday, Feb. 17.

The UW System’s decision to remove TikTok from all university-owned devices came after Gov. Tony Evers signed Executive Order #184 Relating to Cybersecurity and Prohibiting the Use of Certain Foreign Technologies on Thursday, Jan. 12.

According to the executive order, the company that owns TikTok, ByteDance Ltd., has a subsidiary partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party and under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, must assist the Chinese government in intelligence work through data sharing and collecting.

In the executive order, Gov. Evers named cybersecurity as the utmost importance to the State and mandated multiple vendors and software, including TikTok, be downloaded on State-Issued devices or be used on a personal device while connected to a State network.

Paula Gilbeck is the interim chief communications officer and handles all communication coming out of Chancellor James Schmidt’s office.

“(Gov. Evers) made the executive order and we were not, as the UW System, included in that,” Gilbeck said. “The UW System decided to be proactive and said ‘maybe we’ll go one step further and actually put something in place.’”

UW-Eau Claire has a TikTok account managed by Integrated Marketing and Communications used to promote the university to prospective students and connect with current students.

Gilbeck said there will be no changes to the university’s TikTok account because student interns run it within the Integrated Marketing and Communications department. 

Videos for the university’s TikTok account are filmed and uploaded on those students’ phones, not university-owned devices, according to Gilbeck.

“Safety is top priority for UW-Eau Claire and that’s why — again, it wasn’t mandated for UW System to do this — we’re doing this on our own and going that extra mile to ensure safety in that situation,” Gilbeck said.

Academic Affairs sent an email on Wednesday, Feb. 15 on behalf of Learning and Technology Services to notify students of the removal and encourage them to reconsider the possible security threat of having TikTok on personal devices.

Kent Gerberich is the chief information officer and director of LTS, and oversees daily operations for LTS and IT services on the UW-Eau Claire campus and UW-Eau Claire — Barron County campus.

Gerberich said LTS’s involvement began around three weeks ago with discussions at the state level about what Gov. Evers’ executive order meant for the UW System, and in particular for academic research using TikTok.

After the UW System decided what to do system-wide, Gerberich said it only took a few days for LTS to figure out the technical setup and implementation necessary for removing TikTok and preventing the app from being downloaded in the future on all university-owned devices.

“We have a tool in place that can automate this process, so all the tablets and smartphones are under management technology that we can use permissions and access those devices,” Gerberich said.

According to Gerberich, there are about 400 devices owned by UW-Eau Claire, but less than five devices had TikTok downloaded prior to the UW System ban.

“It’s important to note this is university-owned devices only, so we are not blocking it on our network, thus students, faculty, staff that have it on their personal devices can still use it as they wish,” Gerberich said.

Kasper can be reached at [email protected]