Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will take steps to ensure that the Chinese government cannot access Americans’ private information through social media accounts and telecommunications services.
Pompeo said earlier this week that the United States was seeking to ban Chinese social media apps like TikTok, but then said Wednesday that the United States is not focusing on “one particular business.”
“We have engaged in constant evaluation to ensure that we protect the privacy of American citizens and their information while in transit, so this is not related to any particular business or company, but to American national security,” Pompeo told journalists. Wednesday.
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Pompeo also praised Google, Facebook and Twitter for refusing to provide US data to the Hong Kong government, adding that other companies should do the same.
The secretary of state said that US intelligence officials are working to prevent China from accessing private information such as health care records and personal data through people’s phones.
US lawmakers have questioned the security of China’s social media platform TikTok, and the US military banned the app in December, citing cyber security threats, according to Military.com.
But Beijing-based TikTok maintains that it does not store data in China despite being located there and that the Chinese government has never asked for access to user data, according to Reuters.
“The infrastructure of these next hundred years must be a communications infrastructure based on a western ideal of private ownership and protection of the information of private citizens in a transparent manner,” Pompeo said on Wednesday. “That is not the model in which the software and hardware companies of the Chinese Communist Party participate.”
US tech giants, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, said they would stop authorizing user data requests from the Hong Kong authority, following new National Securities laws enforced by the Chinese government in Hong Kong.
The new laws gave authorities the ability to censor online data and the surveillance capabilities that Pompeo has called “draconian.”
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“With the ink barely dry on the draconian National Security Law, Hong Kong authorities are removing books from libraries, banning political slogans and demanding censorship in schools,” Pompeo said in a tweet Monday. “The United States condemns these Orwellian assaults on the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. “
The tech giants expressed concern about human rights abuses, as well as the vague terminology of the new laws.
Twitter said in a statement that it would be “reviewing the law to assess its implications, particularly because some of the terms of the law are vague and without a clear definition,” according to a Forbes report.
TikTok also reportedly said it will take its steps one step further and withdrew its Hong Kong application entirely, according to a Reuters report.
The Trump administration has been highly critical of China’s efforts to exercise power in Hong Kong, first announced in early June.
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Hong Kong enjoyed relative autonomy from mainland China due to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, when the British surrendered the region in 1997 to imperial rule. The United States has recognized Hong Kong as a separate country from mainland China since 1992, and Hong Kong enjoyed certain trade agreements as a result.
But Pompeo announced earlier this month that the United States will move to end Hong Kong’s special status as a result of Beijing’s new security laws.