What’s more important than securing government and public data?
As Governor Evers and his TikTok Professionals show us, a lot!!
This week, members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation asked Governor Evers to ban the app TikTok on state devices based on concerns it is a surveillance tool designed to track users’ data, including when they are not actively using the app. Concerns are not just related to putting potentially sensitive government information at risk, but also that information collected about individual government employees could make them more susceptible to pressure or blackmail.
Concerns with the popular app are not new or based in just one party. In 2019, TikTok’s parent company paid a nearly $6 million fine to the FTC for collecting personal information from minors. In July 2020 then-President Trump suggested a ban on the app. Later that month, now-President Biden told his campaign staff to delete TikTok from their work and personal phones just weeks before the New York Times published an article revealing the browser inside the app was built to track every keystroke made by users. Nearly every Democrat in congress supported an overwhelmingly bipartisan provision in the 2021 defense policy bill banning federal employees from using the app on any government device. Last month Democratic Senator Mark Warner echoed concerns of the FCC, FBI who are calling for a U.S. ban, saying Trump was right to be concerned.
But Evers’ spokeswoman was dismissive of security concerns voiced by the delegation, laughing off the concerns saying her “favorite part” of the letter was that it could have been a phone call.
The Journal Sentinel was equally disengaged, pointing out that Evers’ campaign TikTok was maintained by a state government device, in accordance with state law. The state law that allows state equipment to be used to produce campaign media has eluded our searches and memories, but hey, the mainstream media would have checked that out, right?
More Valuable Than Privacy
One has only to take a peek at the Evers’ DNR TikTok account to understand the Evers’ reticence to stop administration employees’ use of the app, even if it puts government data at risk. A data breach exposing sensitive information would be nothing compared to the loss to Wisconsinites if they couldn’t access deeply meaningful content like this:
The DNR digital communications section chief – the social media guru in charge of all things digital at DNR – told interviewers that Twitter (aka “the bird app”) was on its way out. But she believed in TikTok, and it goes without saying that when a “social media and digital communications professional” advises the use of a social media platform, any self-respecting half-billion-dollar-a-year agency would immediately buy into an app, even though it had already been forced to pay fines for illegal collection of personal information.
Better Than an Unemployment Check
After two months of TikTok awesomeness, Evers’ DNR was so psyched they promoted the TikTok guru to a $70,000+ job while people across the state were losing their livelihoods and businesses to the Safer at Home orders. They knew what the public needed from their government: some education, some inspiration and some fun!
Obviously the Evers social media crew at DNR understood the assignment, celebrating the summer of shutdowns by paying state employees to create a sandcastle marble racecourse in July 2020, providing desperately needed inspiration to all those families who were struggling to get by without a paycheck…and also without an unemployment check, since the Evers Administration wisely knew that prioritizing beach fun videos starring DNR TikTok staff over getting unemployment checks in the hands of out-of-work families was just what the doctor ordered during the pandemic.
This particular post did generate a question from one of those pesky internet Negative Nellies about whether someone was actually making a living building sandcastles in a month when Wisconsinites unemployed by the shutdowns were waiting longer than people in any other state in the nation for their unemployment benefits – over 500,000 UI claims were unpaid.
Chart from CROWE
Some might have hesitated to be gleeful about pulling down a nice paycheck for goofing off on a beach. Some might have felt it was insensitive, but not the DNR TikTok team; they knew that it was an opportunity to tout the DNR as a great place to work!
Functional Government is Overrated
In April 2020, the legislature had passed legislation allowing the Evers administration to shift staff between agencies to manage increased demand in some agencies due to the pandemic. But the Evers Administration didn’t move any of these social media staff who were doing their vital work from home and beach to help process the backlog of unemployment checks.
Nope, and that just goes to show how vital TikTok is to the people of Wisconsin. When your paycheck is cut off by the government, you don’t need an unemployment check to help you get by – you need a cheerful boost. Like this talking tree and relatable coffee cup:
More Than Just Inspiration and Hope
There is more to the DNR TikTok page than just the heroic work of providing hope and saving lives. There’s fun too. So many laughs!
Of course, they do also spend time on hunting, where their expertise shines through:
And they educate us all about things like the changing seasons, staying warm, and reducing our climate footprints too:
We mustn’t forget the helpful hints about hygiene while using state parks:
It goes without saying the DNR was a clearinghouse for health information during the pandemic, and their team of TikTok professionals really stepped up, explaining how to decide whether it was safe to go outdoors, and later in the pandemic, showing fully masked role models, including Governor Evers, planting trees for Arbor Day in 2021. By this time, CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks outdoors unless in a large crowd, but the Wisconsin DNR would not risk parks being turned into killing fields.
The dedication of the Evers’ TikTok professionals is what saving lives looks like. Lives. Not some silly government data thingy stuff.
With substantive, necessary, content like this, it’s quite impossible to expect the Evers Administration to shut down TikTok, no matter how serious the risk to government data.