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The Dutch State Secretary for Digitalization Alexandra van Huffelen has announced that spy-sensitive apps, such as TikTok, will soon no longer be allowed on the work phones of government officials. Until then, civil servants are discouraged from having such apps installed and used on mobile work devices.

The Dutch government is referring to apps from countries with an offensive cyber program against the Netherlands and/or Dutch interests. With the decision, the Dutch government is following the advice of it own intelligence agency AIVD. The advice states that all apps managed in countries with an offensive cyber program directed against the Netherlands and Dutch interests involve increased risk.

“The central government must be able to do its work safely, including via its mobile devices. Recent Parliamentary questions and international developments have led us to a careful consideration that goes beyond discouraging one application. We are opting for a structural solution that central government officials can trust in their work in a digital world,” Van Huffelen said.

The state secretary refers to a parliamentary debate in mid-February when it already appeared that coalition parties VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie saw a great danger of data ending up with the Chinese government via TikTok.

Managed devices

The current decision means that in the short term, the government is working toward “a situation in which mobile devices issued to civil servants employed by the central government are set up so that only pre-authorized apps, software and/or functionalities can be installed and used.” Unknown is exactly how soon the government plans to realize the ban.

The Dutch government wants to enforce the ban through managed devices. It allows the government to determine which apps can be installed and used.

There will be an exception for those situations where an espionage-sensitive app is or may be necessary for the performance of a primary task of a government organization. This may involve inspection and surveillance, investigative research or intelligence interest. In cooperation with the departments, the exception should be further elaborated.

Earlier, it was announced that members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council are no longer allowed to use TikTok on their work phones. Also, several Western countries have now come up with similar measures.

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