2020 has already been the year to go down in history with the coronavirus pandemic and upcoming presidential election, but now the year is about to get even more interesting with the proposed ban of TikTok and WeChat. Trump wanted to ban these apps at midnight on a Sunday, September 27, 2020. He claims that both apps pose security threats to the United States since they are social media apps based out of China that are collecting data from United States citizens and selling this data to the Chinese government.
How Popular is TikTok and WeChat in the United States?
Tik Tok has been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times in the United States. In 2019, it was predicted that TikTok would have more downloads than any of the other major social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Many of these users are young teenagers or adults who are only knowledgable about the fun creative videos they can create and post for their friends to see, many of them don’t know the potential harm these security issues could cause.
WeChat was the least popular messaging app in the United States according to Statista in 2019, ranging at 1.48 million U.S. users. While this number is low, there are many WeChat users that rely on it to communicate with their family members back in China. The Chinese government does not allow them to have access to Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, or YouTube.
Because of this, communication with their family members and friends back in the United States is very limited. Therefore, WeChat is a convenient tool that allows Americans to communicate with people in China even with limited resources to do so.
What Security Threats Do These Apps Supposedly Have?
On August 6th, Trump issued an executive order that would ban both WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores due to supposedly giving our data to the Chinese government. At first, he said they would be banned on September 20th, 45 days after he made this announcement. In another executive order, TikTok was given until November to find a U.S. company that would purchase a share of the app’s rights in the United States.
TikTok decided to partner with Oracle and Walmart but has not signed a complete deal just yet. Basically under this deal, ByteDance (the current company in China that owns TikTok) would spin off into another company called TikTok Global which would hold 80% of the stake in the company. Oracle would on being TikTok’s data host and would hold 12.5% of the stake in the company. Walmart would hold another 7.5% stake in the company. This would ensure that the data of TikTok’s users are protected by the United States.
He believes that ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has a link to the Chinese government since the company is based out of China. Therefore, all its user’s data goes directly to the Chinese Communist Party which allows them to use it against us. They could also promote their propaganda and agenda through the TikTok app to United States Citizens.
He cited the same concerns for the WeChat app, stating that it allows the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Americans’ personal information. He also believes that the Chinese government would spread false propaganda among Americans. WeChat has denied these comments, calling the comments “racist in nature” and singles out people from China.
TikTok Security Issues Were Brought to Light Before The Threat of the TikTok Ban in January 2020
Back in January, the New York Times reported that Check Point has tested the vulnerabilities of TikTok and found that hackers could easily access users’ data and manipulate the information. All a hacker would need to do is send users messages that contained malicious links and they would be able to take over your account. This allowed them to gain access to any private videos or messages you sent to your friends, as well as any private videos you uploaded to the app. They were even able to access the user’s information through the company’s website.
The TikTok team has stated that since this information has been reported, that all security issues were fixed on the app. They also stated that there was no evidence that a breach or violation of their security occurred. They care about their user’s data and will try to protect it in any means necessary.
TikTok’s and WeChat’s Responses
Their comments have also been similar when dealing with Trump’s threat to ban TikTok in the United States. They have stated that they do not give permission to the Chinese government when it comes to accessing users’ data. They have also stated that the decision to ban TikTok in the United States was “made without due process.” It takes away from people and businesses to have an additional social media platform to express yourself.
Updates on The WeChat and TikTok Ban (Updated September 29, 2020)
As of this Sunday, a judge decided to temporarily block the ban on TikTok only hours before the ban would’ve begun. Last Sunday, a judge also temporarily blocked the ban on WeChat as well, claiming that the Trump administration did not have enough evidence to back WeChat stealing data from Americans.
However, that doesn’t mean the ban will not happen. TikTok has until November 14th to finalize the deal made with Oracle and Walmart, since the deal has not been finalized and signed just yet. If TikTok cannot finalize this deal, then it would be banned in the United States.
Social Catfish is Here to Help You!
At Social Catfish, we care a lot about our customers’ security when talking to people through WeChat or TikTok. If you feel like a hacker has compromised your data, we are here to help you with our reverse search bar. You can look up any name, email address, phone number, social media username, or image to see who you have been in contact with on these apps.