The university also strongly advises staff against using TikTok on private devices on which they receive work emails. ‘As it is unclear how TikTok deals with users’ data, private use of TikTok creates risks’, the university states in its message to all staff on MyEUR.

Espionage risk

A spokesperson for the university explains the reasons for the policy decision: “The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) has stated that all apps controlled by countries with offensive cyber programmes targeting the Netherlands and Dutch interests pose an increased espionage risk. We hold to the principle that if you are unsure whether unauthorised parties have access to personal data, you should assume that they do.”

The advice is in line with the policy of the Dutch government, which recently prohibited its civil servants from using the popular app on any devices containing confidential information. The university does not want to go as far as to ban the use of the app, but is focusing on raising awareness among staff about the associated risks.

Sensitive research

Last month, Saxion University of Applied Sciences already informed its staff that it did not want them to use TikTok on work devices. Saxion likewise did not ban such use of the app but urgently advised against it. Its head of information security was quoted in Saxion’s news platform SaxNow saying: “Saxion conducts sensitive research that should not become public knowledge.”

Erasmus University has a TikTok account, but according to the spokesperson, the university does not use it due to data privacy reasons.