For the millions of Chinese in the diaspora Trump’s WeChat ban has created a problem only the software grey market can solve. WeChat is almost an existential requirement. It’s the only messaging app the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) allows, making it the only option to chat with relatives, friends and colleagues in China.
WeChat is the Chinese diaspora’s lifeline to home, and Trump just cut it.
Fortunately for the diaspora, evading Trump’s WeChat prohibition is fairly simple and easy. On a Huawei phone WeChat is available from Huawei’s AppStore. On other devices, just changing the App Store region should be enough. Otherwise WeChat can be manually installed (aka “sideloaded”) simply by downloading it and tapping the file.
The increased app acquisition friction will not interfere with WeChat usage, but friction isn’t free. Users downloading and running applications from the Internet is far riskier than using an App Stop. The simplest solution to avoiding friction is to use a Huawei phone (somewhat difficult to acquire due to Trump era sanctions.)
Strongly encouraging the diaspora to migrate to Chinese hardware and App Stores is bad for the intelligence services. The effect of the Trump admin’s anti-China policies seems likely to be the creation of a millions strong shadow mobile phone ecosystem. One that utilises US network infrastructure as a “dumb pipe” for internet access, but touches no US hardware, software or services.
All the data generated on Huawei phones is sent to China or Singapore (depending on jurisdiction). That data is not sent to Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. Search queries and user clicks get processed by Baidu’s ML to improve their search engine. Google gets nothing. Locations and other information is sent to Huawei where it improves their understanding of the spatial environment the user inhabits. Google gets nothing.
Facebook is one of the few Internet giants to survive this data stream amputation relatively unscathed. Facebook, of course, doesn’t need the OS to collect all the data, they already have an app for that.