White House warns more China-based apps 'could be banned'

President Trump had issued executive orders against TikTok and WeChat

Adam Smith@adamndsmith
Friday 04 September 2020 18:29
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The Trump administration is looking to ban more Chinese apps that it believes could pose a national security threat, according to reports.

The news comes from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who reportedly made the comment to reporters aboard Air Force One.

Meadows did not, however, mention the specific apps that could be banned, CNBC reports.

Donald Trump has previously signed an executive order against TikTok and Chinese messaging app WeChat because of concerns the application could collect data on US citizens, something the companies have denied.

The statement follows the Indian government blocking 118 Chinese applications in the country.

The government said that the apps were “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order."

The applications banned include PUBG Mobile – though not the full version of Playerunknown's Battlegrounds, which is available on consoles – as well as other popular games such as Rise of Kingdoms, Chinese search giant Baidu and apps made by WeChat.

Many of those banned were generic apps without brand names, such as 'Photo Gallery & Album' and 'Web Browser'.

Previously, the Indian government had banned 59 other apps, including TikTok.

The Indian government said that it had received “several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside of India“.

It did not mention specific complaints about apps, or any software by name.

Nevertheless, the likelihood is that if the Trump administration seeks to make more restrictions on Chinese app-makers, it will follow the example set by the Indian government.

Mr Trump’s executive order specifically cited the actions of the Indian government, repeating the assertions about data theft and transmission.

“American companies and organisations have begun banning TikTok on their devices. The United States must take aggressive action against the owners of TikTok to protect our national security,” it continued.

Some Chinese applications do have a questionable history with regards to their relationship with the Chinese government.

It has been claimed in a report from cyber research group Citizen Lab that WeChat censored messages about the coronavirus on its platform – stopping them from being sent through their servers.

Past lawsuits have also alleged that TikTok secretly gathered ”vast quantities“ of user data and is sending it to servers in China.

Both India and the United States’ actions against Beijing have geopolitical roots too.

Tensions between India and China have continued over the summer, which have led to deadly skirmishes over a contested border.

Similarly, Mr Trump is “igniting a Cold War with China” with regards to both the pandemic and the economy.

Western governments have seen China as both a rival superpower requiring opposition, and a lucrative economic force which helped mitigate the impact of the 2008 recession with rapid expansion.

Disney and Apple have both warned that Mr trump’s ban on WeChat could have severe economic ramifications for both companies.

Recently, plans to connect a data pipeline between Los Angeles with Hong Kong were abandoned due to concerns from the US government that the Chinese government could siphon information from it.

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