The deal between Oracle and TikTok parent ByteDance that was announced on Wednesday was not enough to convince the Trump administration
that TikTok won't steal user data belonging to its American users. As a result, the New York Times reports
that U.S. downloads of the short-form video app will be banned after Sunday night. Also banned after Sunday will be U.S. downloads of WeChat, China's extremely popular Swiss Army Knife of an app with over one billion people in China using it as a browser, and a messaging app. It also allows subscribers to shop online and to make online payments. Such payments and the transferring of funds within the U.S. through the app will be banned after Sunday night.
Starting Monday at Midnight, downloads of TikTok and WeChat will be banned in the states
In a statement, the Commerce Department said that TikTok, with over 50 daily active U.S. users, will have until November 12th to remove the threat to U.S. national security, which means that there is still the opportunity for ByteDance to agree to a deal with Oracle or another U.S. firm that would allow the administration to rescind the ban. We could see a record number of U.S. TikTok and WeChat installs from the App Store or the Google Play Store this weekend as those without these apps on their mobile devices download them before the ban. Those who already have installed TikTok will be able to use it at least until November 12th. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said today that "As to TikTok, the only real change as of Sunday night will be users won’t have access to improved updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance." Ross added that "For all practical purposes it will be shut down in the U.S., but only in the U.S., as of midnight Monday," Starting Monday at midnight, no company will be allowed to host WeChat in the U.S. The app's code also cannot be used in other software or services in the states. Those restrictions will apply to TikTok starting on November 12th. On that date, if no deal that the U.S. approves of is reached, TikTok will be banned from use in the United States.
Starting Monday at midnight, U.S. downloads of TikTok will be banned
TikTok, extremely popular among teens, allows users to produce and share 15 or 60-second videos. Content includes lip-synching, dancing, pranks, and more. during the pandemic, the app has been serving as a distraction to those who have been forced to stay inside. It has been downloaded more than 2 billion times from the App Store and Google Play Store. The app makes money by running advertisements.
In his statement, Ross said, "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." Ross also explained why the administration is concerned with these two Chinese apps. He noted, "What they collect are data on locality, data on what you are streaming toward, what your preferences are, what you are referencing, every bit of behavior that the American side is indulging in becomes available to whoever is watching on the other side. That’s what we’re trying to squelch."
The Wall Street Journal notes that U.S. companies like Disney and Walmart rely on WeChat to communicate with and get paid by their customers in China. WeChat is owned by Chinese tech firm Tencent which says that less than 2% of the app's revenue is generated in the U.S.
The administration's reason for seeking these bans takes us back to a familiar story that we've heard for nearly ten years. The fear is that Chinese tech firms, including apps like TikTok and WeChat, can steal personal data from U.S. subscribers and share the data with the Chinese government. TikTok says, like Huawei before it, that it would never do such a thing. In TikTok's defense, the only servers it uses to collect such data are located in the U.S. and in Singapore with none in China.