Chinese video-sharing application TikTok, along with messaging and payment app WeChat, will be banned from US app stores on Sunday, the US Department on Commerce announced in a statement Friday.
The decision is part of US President Donald Trump’s executive orders signed on Aug. 6 when he said he would ban the TikTok app if its US business is not sold to an American company.
“At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data,” Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the statement.
Although the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, Ross said they are similar, each collecting “vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories.”
While Trump has argued TikTok poses a national security threat to the US by sharing American users’ information with Chinese government, some members of the US Congress also demanded the Department of Justice open an investigation into TikTok amid data privacy concerns.
It's a mistake to think of this as (only) a sanction on TikTok and WeChat. It's a serious restriction on the First Amendment rights of US citizens and residents–a restriction that the Trump admin should have to justify. https://t.co/grVawpLC29
— Jameel Jaffer (@JameelJaffer) September 18, 2020
However, TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance denied such allegations, stressing that its user data is stored outside China, and saying it is committed to protect the privacy and safety of its users.
US software company Oracle last Sunday beat its rival Microsoft in a bidding war to buy TikTok’s US operations, but TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance said Thursday any agreement would require an approval of authorities in both Beijing and Washington.
The ban on TikTok could be revoked if Trump approves the Chinese company’s deal with Oracle, or national security concerns posed by TikTok would be resolved until Nov. 12.
TikTok was downloaded 315 million times in January-March 2020, more than any app in a single quarter in history, and 37 million times in August alone when it generated a $9 million revenue that month, according to latest data from Sensor Tower.
WeChat was downloaded 6 million times worldwide, generating a $405,000 revenue in August, the analytics company’s data shows.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk