Dutch government bans officials from using Chinese apps AliExpress, WeChat on work phone
In addition to TikTok, the Dutch government has banned its officials from installing more apps on their work phones, including the Chinese apps AliExpress and WeChat. The government blocked a total of ten apps - four from China and others from Russia, Iran, and North Korea, sources told NOS.
The blocked apps are all from countries that the intelligence service AIVD believes are guilty of espionage. The most well-known apps on the blocklist are Social media platforms TikTok, webshop app AliExpress, and chat app WeChat. Two other better-known apps are the Russian social network VKontakte and CapCut, an app from the developer of TikTok for editing videos. The other five apps are fairly unknown, according to the broadcaster.
The AIVD and government worry that foreign governments can use the apps to access customer data and misuse it for espionage. Contact lists, location data, photos, and documents could be of interest to foreign intelligence services.
The Cabinet announced the ban in March but only mentioned TikTok by name. The national government tasked its IT departments to block the apps, but sources told NOS that this proved more easily said than done in some cases. Some IT departments only blocked TikTok and not the other apps, a source said. And technical obstacles sometimes make the ban hard to implement. For example, it is difficult to remove an app remotely if it is already installed on the phone.
It is unknown how many government officials had these apps installed on their work phones. TikTok is extremely popular in the Netherlands, especially among teenagers and young adults. But the other apps on the blocklist have fewer users in the country. AliExpress, the Chinese marketplace of the Alibaba conglomerate, is probably the second most popular in the Netherlands. VKontakte and WeChat have many users, but mainly in Russia and China, respectively.