US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Picture: REUTERS
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Picture: REUTERS

Washington — The Trump administration will announce measures shortly against “a broad array” of Chinese-owned software deemed to pose national-security risks, US secretary of state Michael Pompeo said on Sunday.

The comments suggest a possible widening of US measures beyond TikTok, the popular music-video app owned by Bytedance, one of China’s biggest tech companies. President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that he planned to ban TikTok from the US, but his decision has not  been announced. Pompeo signalled he expects a Trump announcement “shortly”.

Chinese software companies doing business in the US are feeding data directly to Chinese authorities “whether it’s TikTok or WeChat — there are countless more”, Pompeo said on Fox News.

Trump “will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national-security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party”, Pompeo said.

Trump’s TikTok move could upend a potential bid from Microsoft, which was exploring an acquisition of the app from Bytedance, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump can either “force a sale” of TikTok or block the app by executive order, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said on ABC’s This Week show, adding that he wouldn’t discuss specifics on his talks with the president on the topic.

Cfius objections

Mnuchin, who heads the Committee on Foreign Investment on the US, or Cfius, said “the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100-million Americans”.

That view that “there has to be a change” is shared by legislators  including House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Mnuchin said.

“We’re closing in on a solution and I think you’ll see the president’s announcement shortly,” Pompeo said.

TikTok has become one of the world’s most popular apps. It’s been downloaded more than 2-billion times globally and more than 165-million times in the US Bytedance is prepared to sell 100% of TikTok’s US operations as a way to head off a ban by Trump, two people with knowledge of the situation said earlier.

TikTok has hired almost 1,000 people in the US in 2020 and will be employing another 10,000 into “great paying jobs” in the US, a company spokesperson said in a statement. The business’s $1bn creator fund also supports people in the country who are building livelihoods from the platform, she said.

“TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access,” she said. “TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety.”

Bloomberg

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