President Joe Biden revoked a series of Trump-era executive orders that targeted TikTok, WeChat, and other Chinese apps.
How we got here: The Trump administration sought to prevent new users from downloading the TikTok and WeChat apps, as well as other technical transactions that the companies said would effectively block the apps in the U.S.
The administration argued at the time that WeChat and TikTok pose a national security threat and there are concerns that the Chinese government might collect sensitive personal data of U.S. users through the apps.
In the case of TikTok, the Trump administration also tried to turn its parent company, ByteDance, into a firm primarily owned by US investors.
The former president’s executive orders for the Chinese apps never took effect as they were forestalled by court challenges.
The story: Biden signed an executive order that revokes Trump orders but looks to establish a framework for determining the national security risk of transactions involving certain apps with the goal of protecting against the collection, sale, and transfer of sensitive US consumer data to foreign countries.
Specifically, the president directed the Commerce Department to develop criteria to assess potential national security risks related to apps that are “owned, controlled, or managed by persons that support foreign adversary military or intelligence activities, or are involved in malicious cyber activities, or involve applications that collect sensitive personal data.”
The Commerce Department is expected to then make recommendations on how to address these concerns.
What they’re saying: “The Biden Administration is committed to promoting an open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet; protecting human rights online and offline; and supporting a vibrant, global digital economy. Certain countries, including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), do not share these values and seek to leverage digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that present unacceptable national security risks while advancing authoritarian controls and interests,” the White House said in a fact sheet, announcing Biden’s move.
“The administration is extremely committed to ensure protection of Americans’ data from foreign at-risk apps across the board … including large and popular apps. I think there are a wide range of actions that can be negotiated or imposed to ensure Americans’ data can be comprehensively protected,” one senior administration official told the Washington Post.
When asked if the president plans to ban WeChat and TikTok, another senior administration official said, “All the mobile apps named in the revoked executive orders are eligible for evaluation under the process we’ve outlined.”
Worth noting: A national security review of TikTok that started in 2019 is not affected by the latest executive order signed by Biden. The review is ongoing, the Wall Street Journal reported.
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