Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the launch of the new five-pronged “Clean Network” to remove potential national security risks from China.
The Trump administration aims to eradicate “untrusted” Chinese tech apps like TikTok and WeChat from US app stores, according to Pompeo as he discussed the “Clean Network” effort.
“With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok and WeChat and others, are significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for Chinese Communist Party content censorship,” Pompeo told the press.
Pompeo pointed out that the State Department plans to work with the Commerce Department and the Defense Department to restrict Chinese cloud service providers in terms of collecting, storing, and processing data in the US.
Moreover, the Clean Network effort will make sure that “untrusted” Chinese handset manufacturers such as Huawei do not pre-install apps or allow their downloads through their app stores, that Chinese carriers are not linked to American telecoms networks, and that Beijing does not subvert underseas network cables linking the US to the internet to collect data.
Pompeo’s statements come less than a week after President Donald Trump said during a press briefing that he will ban Chinese-owned video app TikTok from the US.
“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said, describing the action a “severance.”
He did not mention whether he will implement it through an executive order, or another process, such as a designation, the NBC News states.
“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” Trump said.
Last month, Pompeo said the US was planning to ban TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps due to national security concerns. Pompeo noted that the Trump administration was assessing TikTok similar to Chinese state-backed tech giants like ZTE and Huawei.
The Trump administration could start the initiative of banning the app by ordering Apple and Google to remove it from their online stores.
This can be achieved by including TikTok’s owner Bytedance to a Commerce Department entity list, and forbidding US companies from working with it. This was the strategy used by the government to prevent Google from providing its apps to Huawei.
If this is accomplished, new users will not be able to download the app on their mobile devices while existing users will no longer be able to receive notifications and install updates but the app will still be on their devices.
The US government could command Apple and Google to use a “kill switch” facility they both have that allows them to remotely wipe or prevent blacklisted apps from launching.
A tech competitor
Meanwhile, Adam Segal, director of the digital and cyberspace policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the security risk with TikTok is not clear to him. He believes that China can already access large amounts of US citizens’ data through hacks held against government agencies and firms like credit ratings agency Equifax and others.
“The risk on propaganda and influence might be more but I think the larger context is … the Trump administration really wants to push back on China’s rise as a tech competitor to the United States,” Segal noted.