President Trump is preparing to ban Chinese video-sharing app TikTok and the mobile texting app WeChat in 45 days because of national security concerns. He issued two separate executive orders that will prevent them from doing business with U.S. companies.
The popular apps from ByteDance and Tencent (OTC:TCEHY) collect large swaths of personal data from users, including Chinese nationals in the U.S. in the case of Tencent's WeChat, which could be given to government officials in China to target individuals and possibly exact reprisals.
Applying pressure to effect a sale
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has confirmed it is interested in acquiring TikTok, a move that Trump backs, though he conditions it on some of the proceeds going to the U.S. Treasury. The New York Times reports two other companies are also pursuing a purchase.
Citing the risks the social media companies represent, the TikTok executive order says, "This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information -- potentially allowing China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage."
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill banning TikTok's use on government-issued devices.
The Tencent order notes a researcher found a Chinese database containing billions of text messages from users in the U.S., Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia, as well as China.
TikTok responded to the executive order by saying it was "shocked" and promised to pursue all remedies available to it, including legal ones. Reuters reported that Tencent is "reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding" of its implications.