US President Donald Trump has signed two executive orders dealing with what he has labeled as a threat posed by apps like TikTok and WeChat.
The president calls the Chinese apps pair a “national emergency” with respect to information and communications technology and the supply chain for services.
Every trade with the owner of TikTok, ByteDance Ltd or its subsidiaries will be prohibited according to the first order which will take effect in 45 days. Similarly, the second order prohibits any transaction with Tencent Holdings that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Although TikTok has clocked more than 175 million downloads in the US, about 800 million worldwide, WeChat has more than 1.2 billion active monthly users.
Trump says in the orders that apps developed in China continue to threaten United States national security, foreign policy and economy.
“Action must be taken at this time to tackle the threat posed especially by one mobile application, TikTok,” he said.
“TikTok automatically captures vast amounts of information from its users, including information about internet and other network activity such as location data, browsing and search history,” the order continues.
“This data collection threatens to empower the Chinese Communist Party to access the personal and proprietary information of Americans — potentially enabling China to monitor federal employees’ and contractors’ locations, create blackmail personal information records, and conduct spying.”
The second order says that WeChat, like TikTok, automatically collects vast amounts of information from its users, likewise again mentioning the links with the Chinese Communist Party.
“WeChat, like TikTok, also allegedly censors content that is considered politically sensitive by the Chinese Communist Party and can also be used for disinformation campaigns that support the Chinese Communist Party,” it adds.
“US must take aggressive action against WeChat owner to protect our national security.”
The orders come the same day that Facebook releases its own TikTok rival through its proprietary photo-sharing app, Instagram.
Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had a “good look” at TikTok, and there was no evidence to suggest misuse of data from any individual.
“We have had a look, a good look at this, and there is no evidence for us to suggest, having done that, that there is any misuse of the data of any person that has occurred in relation to these applications, at least from an Australian perspective,” he told the Aspen Security Forum.
“You know, there are plenty of things on TikTok that are pretty embarrassing in the press, so that’s kind of a tool on social media.”
Morrison said other social media companies, such as Facebook, have the same problems.
“Enormous amounts of information are being provided that goes back to systems. Now, it’s true that with applications such as TikTok, that data, that information can be accessed at a sovereign state level. That’s not the case with applications coming from the United States. But I think people should understand and there’s a kind of buyer care process,” the p.
“At this point, there is nothing that would suggest that security interests have been compromised or that Australian citizens have been compromised because of what is going on with those applications.”
The orders follow Microsoft toying with the idea of buying TikTok.