U.S. is looking at banning more Chinese apps over national security

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks to members of the press after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol August 4, 2020 in Washington, DC.

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President Donald Trump’s administration is looking into banning more Chinese apps that could pose a national security threat, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said late Thursday.

He made the comments to reporters on board Air Force One, according to a pool report, but did not mention specific apps that could be blocked. 

The remarks echo those Meadows recently made, including last month when he said the administration was looking at banning apps “that might collect personal information and have potential national security risk,” Reuters reported.

Washington has led a campaign against Chinese technology giants from Huawei to ByteDance. The Trump administration has alleged Huawei and other Chinese technology companies could collect American user data and hand it to Beijing, a claim several firms have denied. 

Huawei, which makes networking equipment and consumer products, has faced a number of sanctions that have hurt its business and threaten to cut it off from key semiconductors.

Last month, Trump turned his sights on Tencent, owner of popular Chinese messaging app WeChat, and TikTok owner ByteDance through executive orders on Aug. 6 banning transactions with both firms. 

Trump then issued a separate order on Aug. 14 giving ByteDance 90 days to divest the U.S. operations of TikTok. 

Currently Oracle as well as a team of Microsoft and Walmart are bidding to buy part of TikTok’s business. The deal, which could be worth between $20 billion to $30 billion, was expected to be closed this week. But late on Friday, China updated a list of technologies subject to export restrictions which it hasn’t touched in over a decade. The amended list included technologies for “recommendation of personalized information services based on data analysis.”  

TikTok has talked up its recommendation algorithm which presents users with videos based on a number of factors. 

ByteDance said it will “strictly abide” by the laws. China’s Ministry of Commerce said earlier this week that the export restrictions do not target a specific firm.

However, the amended export list appears to slow down the TikTok sale. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that there are now four options being floated in relation to the sale including bidders proceeding with an acquisition without buying TikTok’s core algorithm. 

It’s not just the U.S. that has gone after Chinese technology firms. India banned 118 Chinese-linked apps this week, citing national security concerns. Geopolitical tensions between India and China have been on the rise over the disputed Himalayan mountain border in the region of Ladakh. In June, a border clash between the two nations left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

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