TikTok banned from DMACC devices

Photo illustration by Alyssa Monroe

With the security concerns surrounding TikTok, Gov. Kim Reynolds banned the popular app from state devices. The same week, DMACC President Rob Denson followed suit by banning it from DMACC devices as well.

On Dec. 13, 2022, Reynolds put out the following press release:

“It is clear that TikTok represents a national security risk to our country, and I refuse to subject the citizens of Iowa to that risk,” said Reynolds. “They trust us with their personal and confidential information, and we will take every step possible to protect it, including from the Chinese government. The safety of Iowans is my number one priority and that includes their cybersecurity.”

Four days later DMACC President, Robert Denson, banned TikTok on all DMACC-owned devices and prohibited DMACC-related accounts. “Although Community Colleges might not be included legally, there is sufficient evidence of the risk and concerns of Cyber consultants that DMACC and the other Iowa Community Colleges have agreed to comply with the Governor’s directive,” Denson said in an email to faculty and staff.

Data collection is nothing new. Companies such as Meta (formerly Facebook) and Alphabet Inc. (parent company of Google) have been known to track massive amounts of data on their users and sell it. Meta has been in particular trouble, with over $1 billion in fines from the European Union alone. If you would like to personally see who they have sold your information to, you can do so via the “Download your data” function required by GDPR (EU law). 

What makes TikTok unique is that the parent company, ByteDance, is a privately held Chinese company. Due to the data privacy laws in China, any data stored on Chinese soil can be accessed by the Chinese government. The Chinese government has caused two well-known incidents in Iowa over the past 10 years which has caused distrust among Iowans. Those being the Iowa Corn Seed theft in 2016, and the Chinese government-run media putting an ad in The Des Moines Register against the trade war in 2018. This distrust persists even though the Chinese government has tried to form close relations with Iowa, via investments and President Xi Jinping’s long-held connection to Muscatine Iowa.

At first glance, it may seem that this would have little effect on the policies at DMACC. However, according to Todd Jones, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, the loss of TikTok has major implications for DMACC’s marketing strategy. TikTok represents an important platform for recruiting students with 60% of the users being between the ages of 16 and 24, the prime age for DMACC students.

Todd Jones said “We have also looked at TikTok and decided that we can still use a third-party vendor who doesn’t use a DMACC-owned device.” Later he added, “We will still be advertising on TikTok.” 

Some students also see TikTok as a potential risk. 

Sarah Logan, 26, cybersecurity major from Indianola, said, “I do think it’s a security risk, especially since it is targeted towards the younger generation who aren’t as well diverse on security and maybe don’t understand what they are accepting.” 

Arathea Stilwell, 20, graphic design major from Trujillo, Peru, echoed Sarah’s thoughts.

“TikTok has spyware, they also have a lot of abuse of underage people, which is also a security risk that many do not think about.”

Some students aren’t especially concerned about TikTok. 

Addison Brockshus, 20, graphic design major from Grimes, said, “Yes [it’s a security risk], but everything is a security risk on the internet. That’s why I don’t see it as an issue to use it,” she said. 

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