Dutch, Norway civil servants told to remove TikTok from work phones

Dutch civil servants will soon no longer be allowed to use TikTok on their work phones. PHOTO: REUTERS

AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government on Tuesday advised officials not to install the Chinese-owned video app TikTok or use social media from other countries with “offensive” cyber programmes.

Following similar moves by other Western nations, the Dutch eventually want to ban “spy-sensitive” apps from countries like China, Iran, North Korea and Russia altogether from phones used by civil servants.

Dutch digital minister Alexandra van Huffelen said the decision followed a recommendation by the country’s secret service (AIVD) which found such apps posed “an inherent espionage risk”.

“The first step is to immediately discourage civil servants... from having apps installed and using them on their mobile work equipment from companies in countries with an offensive cyber programme against the Netherlands,” she said.

The Netherlands then planned to issue officials with mobile phones that only allow the installation of pre-approved apps and software, Mr Van Huffelen added in a letter to Parliament.

The move was based on consultation with the European Union, she said.

Norway’s justice minister, whose active TikTok use has previously landed her in hot water, on Tuesday also recommended that government employees refrain from using the Chinese app on their work devices.

“In their risk assessments ... the Norwegian intelligence services single out Russia and China as the main risk factors for Norway’s security interests,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said in a statement.

“They also single out social media as a forum favoured by potentially dangerous actors and others who want to influence us with disinformation and fake news,” she said.

The recommendation applies to all work devices used by government officials and which are connected to the government’s digital systems.

The youngest member of the government, 29-year-old Mehl found herself at the centre of a media frenzy last year after she admitted, after a long silence amid suspicions about the app, that she had installed TikTok on her work phone.

She stressed she had deleted it a month later.

She said she had used it because she needed to reach a young audience – the main users of the app.

Government employees can still use TikTok and Telegram if necessary for professional reasons, but on devices that not are not connected to the government’s digital systems, the ministry said.

Governments in Britain, the United States and the European Commission have banned TikTok on work devices.

TikTok acknowledged in November that some employees in China could access European user data and admitted in December that employees had used the data to spy on journalists.

The group has however insisted that the Chinese government has no control over or access to its data. AFP

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