The Trump administration wants to eliminate “untrusted” Chinese apps from the App Store as part of a multiphase “Clean Network” plan to cut down on potential security risks from China.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States will crack down on apps with parent companies based in China. The two specific apps mentioned are TikTok and WeChat. However, Pompeo simply used these to illustrate the kinds of apps that could get the boot.
At a press briefing Wednesday, Pompeo said the United States seeks to ban apps that represent “significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for Chinese Communist Party content censorship.”
Pompeo previously took issue with apps he said function as “Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.”
China and the App Store
The most notable of these apps targeted so far is TikTok. One of the world’s most popular apps, TikTok faces a possible U.S. ban on September 15. The only exception will be if it is bought by a U.S. company such as Microsoft.
It’s not clear which other apps this could wind up hurting. TikTok is exceptional in the sense that it is an enormously popular Chinese app that gained momentum in the West. Frequently, the most popular apps in China do not necessarily translate to the United States. Apps like WeChat that become ubiquitous in China might get a “what’s that?” response from U.S. smartphone users.
Still, this siloing of apps could wind up with Apple (among others) being asked to eliminate certain things from the App Store. That could potentially happen regardless of whether there is hard evidence that they are leaking user data to foreign governments.