The Trump administration announced Friday the banning of WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores as of Sunday, citing risks to "national security" against a backdrop of tensions between Washington and Beijing.
This measure is a further escalation of the two applications owned by Chinese companies that have a large number of users in the United States.
WeChat users will also be banned from transferring funds and processing payments through messaging applications starting Sunday.
The Department of Commerce restrictions will also prohibit companies from providing Internet hosting, content delivery networks or peering services for WeChat or from using any of the application's codes, features or services in the United States beginning Sunday. The same restrictions will apply to TikTok as of November 12.
"Today's actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to ensure our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Communist Party of China," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
"Under the President's leadership, we have taken important steps to combat China's malicious collection of personal data of U.S. citizens, while promoting our national values, rules-based democratic standards and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations," he added.
The same source added that while the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar. Each collects vast amounts of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories.
The Donald Trump administration had signed an executive order to prohibit the application of short video sharing in the United States if its Chinese owner, ByteDance, does not cede control to a U.S. company.
An agreement is underway with the American technology company Oracle, but should be concluded before Sunday to prevent TikTok from being squeezed out of application stores.
Oracle has won the bid to buy the U.S. operations of the Chinese application at the expense of Microsoft.
WeChat is the other Chinese-owned messaging application that is at the center of Washington's concerns about data privacy in the United States.
"Each is an active participant in China's civil-military merger and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the PCC's intelligence services. This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security. "according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
U.S. giants Apple and Google will still be allowed to offer both applications outside the United States.
The U.S. Department of Commerce would allow TikTok to continue to operate at least until November 12 for those who have already downloaded it.
This decision adds a new threat to the final stage of negotiations between ByteDance, Oracle, the United States and China.
"This is either a sign that the Trump administration intends to block the deal or a last effort to get more concessions from the Chinese company," said expert Scott Rosenberg in a statement to the U.S. news site Axios.