Trump bans TikTok downloads, WeChat from Sunday citing US national security

F.P. Report

WASHINGTON (AP): Due to national security concerns, the US will ban the use of the Chinese app WeChat on Sunday. Along with the ban on downloads of the app TikTok, owned by the same company, in the US by Nov. 12.

“But access to that app may be possible if certain safeguards are in place,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said early Friday on Fox Business News. “In order to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, we have taken significant action while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of US laws and regulations,” Ross said in a prepared statement.

Some security experts have raised concerns over a security risk that ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, like most social networks, would maintain access to information on the 100 million TikTok users in the United States. It grabs users’ locations and messages and tracks what they watch to figure out how best to target ads to them. He further added that “Similar concerns apply to US-based social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but Chinese ownership adds an extra wrinkle because the Chinese government could order companies to help it gather intelligence.”

Meanwhile, TikTok says it does not store US user data in China and that it would not give user data to the government. But experts say the Chinese government can get any information it wants from companies there.

The action is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to weaken influence from China, a rising economic superpower. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment. China-backed hackers, meanwhile, have been blamed for data breaches of US federal databases and the credit agency Equifax, and the Chinese government strictly limits what US tech companies can do in China.

Despite the administration has provided no specific evidence about Chinese government’s breach of data available through TikTok. Republican and Democratic lawmaker concerns about TikTok include its vulnerability to censorship and misinformation campaigns, and the safety of user data and children’s privacy. Officials point to the hypothetical threat that lies in the Chinese government’s ability to demand cooperation from Chinese companies.

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