Trump considers ban on Chinese app TikTok, others
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is looking at banning the Chinese app TikTok as well as some other Chinese apps. The move follows India’s ban of TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps that the country deemed “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India.”
The U.S. has ramped up its attack on China’s ability to use technology to gather data on people in the U.S. this year. The possible TikTok ban is an extension of that effort.
“Whether it was the problems of having Huawei technology in your infrastructure, we’ve gone all over the world and we’re making real progress getting that out. We declared ZTE a danger to American national security,” Pompeo said, referring to a Chinese phone maker.
“With respect to Chinese apps on peoples’ cellphones, the United States will get this one right, too,” he added.
China employs the largest facial recognition system in the world. Cameras are embedded virtually everywhere. They have even been used in people’s private houses to monitor coronavirus quarantines. China also employs some of the most sophisticated facial recognition software in the world, able to identify faces even when wearing a mask.
U.S. officials worry that apps like TikTok and WeChat are used by Chinese State Security to gather information on U.S. citizens. While popular app companies in China claim that they are private companies, not controlled by the government, under Chinese law, all organizations and citizens are required to cooperate with Chinese State Security.
In an effort to distance itself from the government, the parent company of TikTok hired an American, former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, to be CEO and recently announced that it will be leaving Hong Kong, which is no longer autonomous from the Chinese State Security apparatus.
At the end of last year, the U.S military banned TikTok on military devices, citing the app as a cybersecurity threat. Sens. Tom Cotton ( R-AK) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had both asked intelligence agencies to look into the national security threat posed by the app.
Now the government is also considering a TikTok ban on all government devices, not just military, as well as a general ban in the U.S.
“Every American must understand the risk from apps including @tiktok_us that are used by the Chinese Gov’t to spy on Americans,” says Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). “That’s why I introduced a bill that would ban TikTok on US government phones. I’m glad @SecPompeo & the Administration are taking this threat seriously.”
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