WASHINGTON (CN) — The Trump administration’s restrictions on Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok get underway this weekend, the Commerce Department announced Friday.
Based on executive orders signed by President Donald Trump on August 6, the popular mobile apps will be prohibited on U.S. app store platforms beginning Sunday, Sept. 20.
The removal from app stores will also involve a specific ban on the sending or processing of funds through WeChat, according to a statement from the Commerce Department. Then, beginning November 12, TikTok will see bans kick in on internet hosting services and content delivery.
Another change to TikTok due in November is a ban on the service known as peering, in which two ISP connections meet and exchange traffic thereby the necessitation of paying a third party to carry that volume.
“Any other prohibitive transaction relating to WeChat or TikTok may be identified at a future date,” the Commerce Department said Friday. “Should the U.S. Government determine that WeChat’s or TikTok’s illicit behavior is being replicated by another app somehow outside the scope of these executive orders, the President has the authority to consider whether additional orders may be appropriate to address such activities.”
If “national security concerns” surrounding the apps are resolved before the November ban goes into effect, then prohibitions can be lifted.
The executive order signed by the president in August described the Chinese-owned apps as back-door data collectors and launch pads for disinformation campaigns led by the Chinese Communist Party.
Trump specifically cited both apps’ sharing of location data, browsing and search history as a threat to both the private and public sector in America. To date, there have been more than 175 million downloads of TikTok and WeChat in the U.S. alone and over a billion downloads globally.
“What they collect are data on locality, data on what you are streaming toward, what your preferences are, what you are referencing, every bit of behavior that the American side is indulging in becomes available to whoever is watching on the other side. That’s what we’re trying to squelch,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a segment on Fox Business Network on Friday.
But Toss said the “only real change” to TikTok users in the U.S. will see this weekend will be a bar for users to improve, update or maintain the app.
For now, the Trump administration is considering a proposal from ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok and U.S. partner Oracle that could close some of the security gaps that prompted the executive order to start.
That deal would let ByteDance retain its majority stock in the app and would establish a TikTok headquarters in the U.S.
The proposal is not yet finalized but widespread reports citing anonymous individuals close to negotiations suggest that, as part of the deal, the U.S. government would have control over who sits on TikTok’s board. At least two of those members would be required to have expertise in data security.
If finalized, the deal would also make TikTok an international company up for trading on the U.S. stock exchange.
WeChat is owned by the Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings. On Friday, mere hours ahead of the Trump administration’s announcement, Reuters reported that the company changed the name of its WeChat Work collaboration app to WeCom.
The WeCom trademark was already registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in mid-August, and the maneuver ahead of long anticipated ban gives users a possible alternative to WeChat. Whether WeCom would technically fall under the same restrictions as WeChat is not yet clear.