Cabinet calls officials: remove apps like TikTok from work phone | Policy

The firm is calling on public servants to remove apps such as TikTok from their work phones. It has just been announced.

Secretary of State Alexandra van Huffelen (Digitalization) is calling on government officials to immediately remove spy-sensitive apps such as TikTok from their work phones. The video app has a Chinese parent company and that country has a “cyber offensive program against the Netherlands”.

It should eventually become impossible for officials to have apps from these countries – including Iran and Russia, for example – on their phones.

In February, MPs from the four coalition parties VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie came out in favor of a ban on TikTok during a debate. They fear that user data could be accessed by the Chinese government. The Secretary of State then promised to give a definitive answer as soon as possible. Now it comes with “special attention that goes beyond the advice of a single application”, without mentioning TikTok by name. It follows the list published by the AIVD intelligence service of countries with an offensive cyber program.

National government policy will also be changed, “as soon as possible”. As a result, it will soon no longer be technically possible for officials to install “spy-sensitive apps”. Van Huffelen makes an exception if such a request is required for a “main task of a government organization”. This may relate to applications used for inspection and supervision, criminal investigations or to obtain intelligence. The Secretary of State will elaborate this exception in the coming months in consultation with the ministries.

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fear of spying

TikTok has been under fire from critics around the world for quite some time now. Last Thursday, the British government decided to ban TikTok on work phones and other government devices. New Zealand will follow at the end of April and earlier the EU and Belgium banned the social platform. The app is also banned in the United States and Canada.

Countries fear that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government. To use TikTok, users must allow the app to collect and store certain data. It is feared that China has access to this data. The company behind the app, ByteDance, is believed to have ties to the Chinese government. Additionally, there are fears that videos that embarrass the Chinese state will be deleted and videos that show a positive image will appear in users’ timelines.

The cabinet appeal can in any case count on the approval of D66. According to D66 MP Hind Dekker-Abdulaziz, a ban provides better protection for sensitive government information. “We need to prevent data leaks in every way possible. The Chinese app TikTok is a vulnerability in this regard. It is good that the cabinet is now listening to D66’s request to ban TikTok from devices that public servants use in the course of their work. Many other countries have already preceded us and the Netherlands should not be outdone.

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