The past few months have seen a global crackdown on applications owned by companies based in China, almost entirely due to political backlash at the country, rather than concerns over data privacy. India has now banned over a hundred China-made applications, most notably including TikTok, and now the United States is following suit.
President Trump signed two executive orders today, focusing primarily on WeChat and TikTok. The order affecting TikTok claims the app records "browsing and search histories," even though there doesn't appear to be any public evidence of that.
TikTok, a video-sharing mobile application owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., has reportedly been downloaded over 175 million times in the United States and over one billion times globally. TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.
Specifically, the order bans all transactions with TikTok's owner, ByteDance Ltd., starting on September 20th. That deadline is shortly after Microsoft aims to complete its acquisition of TikTok's US operations. After that date, ByteDance (presumably) wouldn't be able to generate revenue from the United States or pay its US staff, though the order is vague on the specific repercussions.
A similar order was also signed for WeChat, a popular messaging service owned by Tencent Holdings Limited. It sets the same September 20th deadline for transactions with Tencent, which potentially has massive ramifications — the company has partial stakes in hundreds of companies operating in the US, including Snap, Activision Blizzard, and Tesla Motors.
- The Verge