Trump Administration Bans TikTok, WeChat App Downloads in U.S. as of Sept. 20

The U.S. government will prohibit app stores from offering TikTok and WeChat, two popular Chinese-owned apps, effective Sunday over the Trump administration’s claims that it wants to prevent the Chinese from accessing data on Americans.

The new rules, issued Friday by the Commerce Department, is pursuant to President Trump’s executive orders signed Aug. 6, 2020, banning business transactions with TikTok and WeChat as of Sept. 20. That means Apple’s App Store and Google Play, for example, will be barred from offering downloads or updates to the apps to users in the U.S.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is in the middle of negotiating a deal with the Treasury Department to sell ownership of the app to majority-control by U.S. interests, including Oracle. Trump has set a deadline of Nov. 12 for such a deal to be completed, whereupon the ban of TikTok in the U.S. could be lifted.

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

The Commerce Department said WeChat and TikTok both collect “vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories.” The U.S. government has pointed out that as operated by companies in China, they are subject to “mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP. This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.”

The rules prohibit provision of service “to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S.” as well as “any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.”

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