Chinese app TikTok, WeChat to be banned from US app stores from Sunday

(IANS) The TikTok and WeChat apps will be banned from US app stores starting Sunday, the country’s Department of Commerce said on Friday.

The move “to safeguard the national security of the United States” came in response to US President Donald Trump’s executive orders signed on August 6.

Among the “transactions” which are prohibited starting September 20 include “any 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 US”.

It also prohibits “any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the US” from Sunday.

The Department of Commerce said that Trump has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved.

Besides removing the applications from the app stores in the US, hosting services for them in the country will also be prohibited.

As of September 20, for WeChat and as of November 12 for TikTok, “any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimisation of the mobile application in the US” are prohibited.

The prohibitions will protect users in the US by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality, the Department of Commerce said, adding that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the US.

The Trump administration had raised concerns that the Chinese state could have access to data of American users of these applications – an allegation denied by both China and the owners of the applications.

“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 US laws and regulations,” US Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, said in a statement.

The US Department of Commerce said that the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, but they are similar.

Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories, it alleged.

“Each is an active participant in China’s civil-military fusion and is 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 department said.

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