DONALD Trump has banned eight major Chinese apps from operating in the United States as part of efforts to protect national security.
An executive order signed by the US President yesterday blocks transactions with major apps including Alipay and WeChat Pay, which boast millions of downloads across the globe.
Donald Trump has banned US transactions with eight Chinese appsCredit: AFP or licensors
The move escalates tensions with Beijing two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
It’s aimed at curbing the threat to Americans posed by Chinese apps, which have huge user bases and access to sensitive data, a senior administration official told Reuters.
The Trump administration has also repeatedly threatened to ban Chinese social media app TikTok, which has more than 100million US users.
Tuesday’s order argues that the United States must take “aggressive action” against developers of Chinese apps to protect national security.
An executive order signed by the US President yesterday blocks transactions with major apps including Alipay and WeChat PayCredit: Rex Features
It tasks the Commerce Department with defining which transactions will be banned under the directive within 45 days and targets QQ Wallet as well.
The order also names major apps CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and Beijing Kingsoft Office Software’s WPS Office.
“By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users,” the executive order states.
That information “includes sensitive personally identifiable information and private information”, the document adds.
According to Trump’s order, such data would permit China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information.
China will take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights of companies in view of the Trump order, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing on Wednesday.
WeChat is one of the world’s most popular social media appsCredit: AFP or licensors
She added that the U.S. was abusing its national power and unreasonably suppressing foreign companies.
Kingsoft, which operates newly banned app WPS Office, said in a statement that it did not expect Trump’s order to substantially impact the company’s business in the short term.
Ant, the Biden transition team and SHAREit declined to comment.
Alibaba, Tencent, CamScanner and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The order aims to cement Trump’s tough-on-China legacy before the January 20 inauguration of Biden, a Democrat, who has said little about how he plans to address specific tech threats from China.
Biden could, however, revoke the order on the first day of his presidency, though his transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to ban Chinese social media app TikTokCredit: AFP or licensors
The order will likely ratchet up tensions further between Washington and Beijing, which have been locked in a bitter dispute over the origins of the coronavirus and a Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong.
Despite the 45-day time line laid out by the order, the Commerce Department plans to act before Jan. 20 to identify prohibited transactions, another U.S. official told Reuters.
The directive mirrors Trump executive orders signed in August directing Commerce to block some U.S. transactions with WeChat and the Chinese-owned video app TikTok.
TikTok: Brief guide to the world’s most downloaded app
- TikTok lets users create and share short videos with music and camera effects
- The hit app is best known for short dance videos, lip-syncing clips, comedy sketches, and talent footage
- It is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, founded by the entrepreneur Zhang Yiming
- The $200billion conglomerate acquired the Musical.ly app in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, bringing millions of new users
- By February 2019, TikTok and Douyin had been downloaded more than a billion times
- It was the most-downloaded app on the App Store in 2018 and 2019
- Cyber experts have expressed concern over ByteDance’s alleged links to the Chinese government
- The Department of Defense has urged its employees to avoid using the app over national security concerns
- TikTok says it does not and would not share user data with the Chinese government
Had those orders gone into effect, they would have effectively banned the Chinese apps’ use in the United States and barred Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s app stores from offering them for download for new users.
The restrictions, however, were blocked by courts mainly on freedom of speech grounds.
The White House is confident the new restrictions will stand up to judicial scrutiny, since applications like Alipay would struggle to bring a First Amendment case, the senior administration official told Reuters.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement that he supports Trump’s “commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
In other news, TikTok and DEATH were the world’s most searched for terms in 2020, according to Google data.
The search giant can now identify a song that’s stuck in your head by analysing your hum or whistle.
And, Snapchat will finally let users add music to their snaps in a move that will see it rival TikTok and Instagram Reels.
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