Stricter measures taken against WeChat, TikTok has a deadline to work out a deal with a US company
The Trump administration said on Friday that it is banning TikTok and WeChat from US app stores, a measure that will go into effect at midnight on Sunday. The Chinese-owned apps are being removed from Apple and Google app stores under the guise of national security, the accusation being the Chinese government has access to user data.
The ban will prevent new users from downloading the apps and will prohibit current users from updating them and fixing bugs.
Also effective at midnight on Sunday is a ban that will prohibit US companies from processing financial transactions on WeChat, an app used worldwide by billions of users. WeChat is both a social media app and a way to make electronic payments and is a vital part of life in China. Chinese Americans rely on the app to send money to China and keep in touch with relatives.
Other strict measures against WeChat prohibit US companies from offering the app internet hosting and other network services. Experts say the measures will effectively shut down WeChat in the US.
The Trump administration is leaving TikTok a little more wiggle room while its Chinese parent company ByteDance is working out a deal to sell the video-sharing app to a US company. If a deal is not reached, stricter financial restrictions for TikTok will go into effect on November 12th.
The tech company Oracle is currently working out a deal to partner with ByteDance to prevent an outright ban of TikTok. Reports say a proposal was submitted to the Treasury Department this week that would keep ByteDance as the majority shareholder and transfer headquarters and data hosting to Oracle in the US.
Having TikTok user data stored by a Chinese-owned company is the issue the Trump administration says it has with the app. The US says that since ByteDance is a Chinese company, it is obligated to share user data with the Chinese government, a charge TikTok denies. The CIA recently said it has not seen evidence of the Chinese government accessing TikTok’s user data.
Reports indicate that the Trump administration will not approve a plan that keeps ByteDance as the majority shareholder. The ban is more likely a broader part of the Trump administration’s anti-China policies, which have taken many forms, and less about user data.
All of the things TikTok is accused of, US tech companies are guilty of with respect to the US government. In 2013, leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that a program known as PRISM gives the NSA and FBI backdoor access to user data from Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other US tech platforms.