TikTok is taking over the U.S. even after measures to restrict the Chinese apps

May 30, 2023: For a long time, ByteDance’s TikTok has been the direction of lawmakers and espionage officials who fear it is used to spy on Americans. Those problems took center stage during a five-hour grilling of TikTok’s CEO in March.

But while TikTok has been in the limelight, further Chinese apps that present identical problems are also experiencing massive favor in the U.S.

Concerns about ByteDance stem primarily from a national security law that gives the Chinese state the power to access broad swaths of business information if it claims to be for national security. U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers fear that the Chinese government could effectively access any data that China-based app companies have collected from American users, from email addresses to user interests to driver’s licenses.

But that hasn’t convinced many customers, as several China-based apps are still booming in the U.S.

For example, the shopping app Temu, owned by China-based PDD Holdings, has the number two spot on the Apple App Store among free apps as of delinquent May. According to Insider Intelligence, it also held the number 12 spot among digital vendors in the 2022 holiday season for unique guests to its site, topping stores like Kohl’s, Wayfair, and Nordstrom, which credits visibility on TikTok for its rise.

Meanwhile, ByteDance-owned apps CapCut and TikTok hold the fourth and fifth spots on the App Store orders. Chinese fast fashion brand Shein has fourteenth.

And between late March and early April, after the TikTok CEO hearing before Congress, ByteDance’s Lemon visited nearly 1 million downloads in the U.S., Insider Intelligence reported based on data from Apptopia. It’s an app with similarities to Pinterest and Meta’s Instagram.

These apps share some of the features that have worried the U.S. government regarding TikTok, including whether some of these firms adequately protect U.S. user data when operating out of China (TikTok has stressed that U.S. user information is only stored on servers outside China). Like TikTok, these apps collect user information, can analyze trends in their interests, and use algorithms to target consumers with products or announcements likely to keep them entertained with the service.

But experts on China and social media say there are significant differences between these apps and TikTok, which might explain their relative lack of attention. Among the most important elements is the company’s scale in the U.S.

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