Government officials may only use ‘approved’ apps

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Government officials may only use ‘approved’ apps

To allay concerns about dangerous apps, the government will only allow apps for government officials who have been ‘approved’. This is what State Secretary for Digitization Alexandra van Huffelen reports in the BNR Digital program. The decision is intended for government officials who may come into contact with sensitive information that is of interest to countries such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Alexandra van Huffelen, State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitization, will only allow civil servants to use ‘approved’ apps on work phones. (ANP / ANP)

Van Huffelen’s statements follow her advice to government officials to remove TikTok from work phones. Because the app is owned by the Chinese parent company ByteDance, there would be risks. The AIVD agrees, which previously published a list of countries with an ‘offensive cyber programme’. The list includes China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Van Huffelen reports that it is not necessarily a ban from TikTok, but that from now on only ‘approved’ apps may be on business phones of civil servants. ‘In the coming weeks we will be working with managing devices. We will then allow a number of apps on the phones of people who work for the government that we deem safe and necessary for work. So we will no longer allow other apps’, Van Huffelen continues: ‘We don’t say so much what is no longer allowed, but what is allowed. Those are apps that we know for sure are safe to use by people who work for the government.’

podcast | Digital

User data

The Secretary of State is particularly concerned about the apps that require access to many types of data on your mobile. ‘So give permission to share your location, not only with the app, but also for resale. They can also see what kind of contacts you have on your phone. What kind of photos you have. There are even apps that are allowed to track your keyboard strokes.’

Because of the risks, the intelligence service has therefore issued an advisory report. ‘The AIVD believes that there is an increased risk that this could go wrong. We want to prevent people from sharing information with companies or countries unintentionally and undesirably.’

Do other apps follow?

And those countries specifically concern countries with an ‘offensive cyber programme’ where there are ‘espionage risks’, the State Secretary explains. Countries such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are then explicitly mentioned by the AIVD. It is then interesting whether the Secretary of State will also ban other apps. The popular chat app Telegram has Russian roots and Alibaba also originates from China.

‘There is a chance that something will go wrong, but that does not necessarily mean that something will go wrong’

Alexandra van Huffelen, State Secretary for Digitization

But then Van Huffelen says that a ‘close look’ will be taken to see which apps can count on a ban for government officials. She does say that there are no immediate dangers at the moment. “There is a chance that something will go wrong, but that does not necessarily mean that something will go wrong,” emphasizes Van Huffelen, who also says that there is already a “certain degree of security” on the work phones of civil servants. “But we think that’s not enough. Because there is still the possibility that information is collected about where you are, who you speak to and data from your telephone.’

Also listen | BNR’s Big Five – AIVD director Erik Akerboom: ‘China has a huge data hunger’

TikTok angry

TikTok has already reacted with dismay to the proposed ban for government officials on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the company said that “both Tiktok and our parent company are not Chinese owned and the Chinese government has no access whatsoever to TikTok’s user data.”

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