The White House indicated on Wednesday that a decision on Chinese mobile applications, including TikTok, could be taken within weeks and not months.
“I do not think there is any self-imposed deadline for action, but I think we are looking at weeks, not months,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters aboard Air Force One, flying with President Donald Trump from Atlanta.
“There are a number of administration officials who are looking at the national security risk as it relates to TikTok, WeChat and other apps that have the potential for national security exposure, specifically as it relates to the gathering of information on American citizens by a foreign adversary,” Meadows said.
The move to ban TikTok in the US has suddenly gained momentum after India’s decision in this regard last month.
“They (Indians) made the decision that they were going to pull 50 or so Chinese applications off the systems that were operating inside India. They did not do that because the United States told them to. They did it because they could see the threat to the Indian people from the Chinese Communist Party,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Economic Club of New York in a virtual exchange.
The US, he said, has been working closely with the Indians across a broad spectrum of the full range of international partnership with them to assist them in making sure that they have all the information they need to make good decisions.
Early this month, Pompeo had said the US may ban TikTok.
“I made a comment about TikTok. But we got to go back to principles first. The mission set is to protect American national security. And in this case, the information of American citizens,” he told The Hill newspaper in an interview.
“So, whether it is TikTok or any of the other Chinese communications platforms, apps, infrastructure — this administration has taken seriously the requirement to protect the American people from having their information end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said.
According to Pompeo, the Trump administration is working through a process where all the relevant agencies and the private sector are getting to say their piece. “We hope to have a set of decisions shortly, which will reflect that central understanding,” he said.
“We have been working on ZTE, we have been working on Huawei. We are pleased to see the United Kingdom make its announcement that it is going to pull out Huawei technology from its telecom infrastructure. We watched telecom companies all across the world from Orange and others to say no, we understand,” Pompeo said.
“We want to make sure that our data flows only across trusted vendors. That is the mission set and that is certainly the mission set when it comes to applications that our kids may be touching,” he added.
In a related development, the US House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday passed a number of provisions, authored by Congressman Tom Graves, to crack down on foreign entities and state-owned enterprises that seek to steal data and personal information from American citizens.
“Today’s language was authored amidst ongoing discussions about the potential threats posed to the US from companies like Huawei and TikTok,” Graves said.
“While taking steps to protect our networks, we also need to make sure that the apps and platforms we download on our personal devices do not have ties to foreign governments with a history of bad actions,” the Congressman said.