The US government announced late Wednesday night new measures to protect “the privacy of citizens and information of businesses” from the influence of malicious parties, such as the Chinese Communist Party. The most drastic aspect of the plan: Chinese applications that the Trump administration does not trust should be able to be removed from Apple and Google’s App and Playstore.
Microsoft is taking over TikTok – or so is the expectation. A great opportunity, with the necessary problems.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated during his press conference on Wednesday that apps like WeChat and TikTok are a serious threat to the security of US data in his view. That’s why he wants to ban Chinese-made apps from the U.S. market and prevent Chinese phone manufacturers from offering U.S. apps – for example, Google Maps on a Huawei phone. The submarine network of 5G cables must also be better protected against Chinese attempts to collect data.
Exactly how the plans should be implemented was not clear from the press conference of the American top diplomat on Wednesday. His Chinese colleague Wang Yi called the American plan against state news agency Xinhua “a textbook example of harassment.” In addition, Pompeo does not have the authority to take such steps.
TikTok is extremely popular worldwide. The video app has about a hundred million users in the United States alone. President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he is considering a ban on TikTok. According to Washington, Chinese apps, as well as multinationals such as Alibaba, are susceptible to misuse by the Chinese government, who would use them to get US data. TikTok plucks contact details, GPS data and payment details from a user’s phone, among other things. However, it has never been proven that this information would end up with the Chinese government.
Microsoft is attempting to take over the US branch of the app from parent company ByteDance with Trump’s permission. It must be completed before September 15. The president later suggested that a percentage of the deal should flow to the US Treasury. Microsoft would already agree to that requirement, the president told Fox News on Wednesday. The company has not yet responded.
Correction August 6, 2020: An earlier version of this article stated that TikTok has about 100,000 users in the US. That is not correct: there are about a hundred million.