Why Communist China-Connected Temu Is Worse Than TikTok (2024)

Once downloaded, Temu can access almost anything on your phone — the camera, internet, audio recordings, and more — according to one study.

If you polled Americans on whether they would be comfortable handing over sensitive personal and financial information to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), you would likely get a near-unanimous declaration of “no!”

But this is precisely what more than100 million Americansusing Temu have done, according to analysis by SimilarWeb.

Temu, a China-based e-commerce company, has witnessed meteoric growth since its inception in 2022. It has its sights set on $60 billion in sales this year, after an impressive showing in 2023 as thesecond-fastest-growingwebsite behind OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Known for its heavily discounted products (made less expensive by leveraging relaxed Chinese labor, manufacturing, and distribution laws), Temu is all-in on saturating the American e-commerce marketplace — not that slave labor could ever be “relaxed.”

In addition to spending76 percent of its budget on social media adsand millions more on commercials — including its unsettling, CCP propaganda-laden “Shop Like a Billionaire” Super Bowl ads — it is operating at a staggering loss. By oneestimate, Temu is losing $30 per order in an effort to penetrate the American consumer market.

If the company was comprised of marketing geniuses with extensive experience scaling up e-commerce giants, you might be able to spin this as another risky long-term start-up strategy. But a recentreportrevealed that top Temu executives — including executives overseeing their public and legal affairs, public relations, and operations — are former high-ranking officials of the CCP. Perhaps this is one of many reasons why they’re targeting America so heavily with this app and not offering the platform in China.

Like America’s tech giants, Temu is full steam ahead in its bid to move fast and break things. But it’s breaking more than brand loyalty to Amazon, and the cost could be the integrity and security of sensitive American data.

Cybersecurity Threat

The threats China poses to the cybersecurity of critical American assets have beenwell established. In addition to operating the most advanced domestic surveillance apparatus in the world — thus, highly competent in poring over large sums of data that enable coercive action to shred individual agency and freedom — China has wielded the sensitive information of Americans to aid itstraditional espionage efforts. Even if we cannot see the full effects now, come election season or the further escalation of geopolitical conflict, China is accumulating the exact kind of personal information through Temu it would need to wreak havoc at a moment’s notice.

Earlier this year, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.,articulatedhow Temu fits into this mix, asserting that it is “a threat to American producers, investors, online retailers, and every single American’s personal privacy.” He underscored why it almost assuredly poses an even greater threat to our national security than TikTok.

As revealed by onestudy, once downloaded, Temu can access almost anything on your phone — the camera, internet, audio recordings, etc. That means the CCP could theoretically install applications and spyware files on an individual’s smart device to use for complete surveillance of all user activity on a phone. This would allow China to monitor keystrokes and logs to have direct insight into login credentials for other social media, emails, and bank accounts.

In other words, Temu can just as accurately be called a malware program as an e-commerce platform. No wonder Temu’s CCP-veteran executives are willing to lose $30 an order. Furthermore, Temu’s parent company, PDD, wasremoved from Google Playon the grounds that the fraudulent app had harmful malware that captured highly sensitive personal information, including biometrics, geolocation, and more. And it is common practice for China to refine its cyberattack tactics once exposed to be not only more virulent but more hidden.

And while it has yet to be corroborated, there isincreasing speculationthat Temu and its parent company are making up for the aforementioned profit losses by selling stolen data from American customers to nefarious actors such as data brokers.

If the fact that Temu provides a direct vector for the CCP to steal sensitive American personal information isn’t reason enough to act, this is before addressing the Chinese company’s unapologetic human rights abuses, use of slave labor, counterfeiting of Amazon storefront products, and intellectual property theft.

Time to Act

Amid all the national discourse on the threats of TikTok to American security and data privacy, Temu has been largely ignored. But with the signing of theTikTok divestiture law, moreunvarnished rhetoriccoming out of Washington on the cybersecurity threats China poses to America’s posterity, and growing bipartisan efforts zeroing in on China, now is the time to act.

While federal action on this issue is needed, absent meaningful progress in Congress, states can take action of their own. Last year in Texas, state Rep. Jared Patterson introducedHB 2206, which would prohibit the operation of social media developed or provided by hostile foreign entities. Texas is poised to lead on this in the 2025 legislative session, and hopefully other states and Congress follow.

As Temu continues its aggressive push into the American market, the question remains: Are the low prices worth the high risks? With concerns over data privacy, security, and the company’s ties to the CCP, it is clear Temu is not just another e-commerce platform. It is a Trojan horse, offering cheap goods while quietly siphoning off sensitive American data. The time has come for consumers to think twice before clicking “download” on Temu, and for lawmakers to take decisive action to protect our national security and individual privacy.

Why Communist China-Connected Temu Is Worse Than TikTok (2024)
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