Dutch tax office also wants to ban apps like TikTok from work telephones
The Belastingdienst recently asked its employees to remove apps such as TikTok from their work phones, for fear that they could be used to spy on people. When asked, a spokesperson for the Dutch tax office said that the organization is following the Cabinet’s lead on the issue.
Last week, the state secretary for digitization issues, Alexandra van Huffelen, issued an urgent appeal to government officials to remove apps that could pose a potential threat after advice was issued by civilian intelligence service AIVD.
The Cabinet decided on Tuesday to advise against the use of “apps from countries with an offensive cyber program against the Netherlands.” The announcement itself did not mention the names of specific countries and apps, but last month members of parliament from the four coalition parties announced that they are in favor of a TikTok ban. It will likely become impossible for civil servants to install applications from such countries - including Iran and Russia - on their phones.
TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. For fear of espionage and undue influence on users, other countries have also restricted the use of the app, much to TikTok’s dismay. The app claims that it is not controlled by any state or government. “Both TikTok and our parent company are not Chinese owned and the Chinese government has no access to TikTok user data whatsoever,” the company said in a response last week.
However, multiple news outlets including Reuters and the Financial Times reported over the past year that a state-owned company now owns a minority stake in ByteDance. The stake reportedly gives the state-owned business rights to overrule other shareholders on some issues. The acquisition meant Wu Shugang, a Communist Party official and former internet regulator in China, joined ByteDance’s board of directors.
The association of municipalities in the Netherlands, VNG, said it prefers to make agreements with employees about the private use of work phones and the private use of business equipment, instead of a blanket ban on apps such as TikTok. The VNG also questioned whether a ban actually removes the risks of using these types of apps and whether there are any disadvantages to a ban.
Municipalities that want to use TikTok to communicate with residents must use the platform carefully and be cautious about both goals and alternatives, the VNG said.
Reporting by ANP