The increasing concerns about TikTok have hardly led to a ban on the app among Dutch employers. This is evident from a tour of the NOS. It therefore seems to be mainly a political theme for the time being. In the Netherlands, a possible ban for government officials is hanging over the market.
NOS approached dozens of employers for this tour. The vast majority of these are companies. In addition, the three Dutch technical universities, the most important supervisors in the field of technology, the police and the five largest Dutch municipalities were approached.
More than thirty responses
In total, more than thirty employers responded. More than two-thirds explicitly state that they do not apply a ban. A number of other respondents say nothing about it and a single employer says that there are restrictions.
TikTok has been on the rise for several years now. It started among children and young people, but the target group continues to expand. Because the app is made in China, there have been concerns for years about whether the government in China can monitor what users are doing here.
TikTok invariably says those concerns are unfounded. The company says it will never provide data to the Chinese government.
Say nothing or far-reaching restrictions
Not all employers who responded to the tour wanted to say whether security measures have been taken, and if so, which ones. These are Philips, Gasunie, KPN, T-Mobile and facility service provider Vebego. Gasunie does expect to go along with a ban if it is announced by the government. The police have a lot of restrictions on a company phone – that goes beyond TikTok alone.
Chip machine company ASML, which reported data theft by a former employee in China last month, has not responded. Chip manufacturer NXP does have restrictions on laptops, but not on phones.
At Vattenfall, TikTok is not part of the social media strategy and private use is not allowed. The municipality of Eindhoven is the only respondent to have banned the app because of security concerns. According to the municipality, TikTok “has been unable to provide sufficient certainty about privacy and security rules”.
Some employers do not have a ban on TikTok, but have generally placed their own apps on phones in a protected area for security reasons. These are ING, Eneco, Essent and ACM. The Dutch Data Protection Authority, like the police, cannot install many apps.
The results of the tour raise the question for Ellen Mok, who advises companies at KPMG on their cyber security strategy with regard to state threats and who previously worked for the AIVD, whether companies have sufficiently mapped out the risks.
She points to the fact that espionage from China is seen by the FBI and the Dutch secret services as the greatest economic threat in the long term. “We look at TikTok with that view. The app systematically collects information, for example location. That can pose risks within the business community.”
A wave of prohibition
In Dutch politics there is an increasing call for a ban on TikTok. That sentiment has come over from the US, where there has been distrust of the app for years. Then-President Trump tried unsuccessfully to ban the app in 2020. Meanwhile, employees of the federal government, among others, are no longer allowed to have the app on their phones. On Thursday, TikTok’s CEO will be heard by the US Congress.
In the Netherlands, State Secretary Van Huffelen of Digitization is working on it and has obtained advice from the AIVD. A spokesman said yesterday afternoon that a “considered” decision is still being worked on.