Biden revokes bans on TikTok, WeChat, launches censorship of foreign apps

U.S. President Biden issued an executive order on June 9, local time, revoking the Trump administration’s ban on Chinese apps such as TikTok, WeChat, and Alipay. Meanwhile, Biden has ordered the Commerce Department to initiate a review of foreign applications he believes could pose risks to U.S. data privacy and national security. TikTok declined to comment, and WeChat had no immediate comment.

Biden revokes bans on TikTok, WeChat, launches censorship of foreign apps

The lifting of the ban does not mean that the situation of Chinese apps is better

On August 6, 2020, then-US President Trump signed an executive order stating that after 45 days, any US individual or entity will be prohibited from conducting any transactions with TikTok, WeChat and their Chinese parent companies. However, due to the lawsuits filed by multiple WeChat US users and TikTok in various courts in the United States, many courts have ruled to suspend the implementation of the above ban, and the US Department of Commerce announced that it will temporarily not implement the relevant executive order. Today, the ban has been officially revoked.

But the reversal of the ban doesn’t mean the U.S. has put complete trust in the apps. It is reported that the executive order does not affect Trump’s separate order for ByteDance to divest its TikTok US business. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) continues to monitor ByteDance’s compliance with the directive to sell TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft and Oracle.

In addition, a White House official said a national security review of TikTok, launched in late 2019, is still ongoing. Another administration official also said the White House remains very concerned about the data risks of TikTok users.

Combined with the executive order issued by Biden on June 3 local time – expanding the blacklist of Chinese companies that prohibit American investment, it can be found that Biden’s China policy is still tough, at least in the field of technology, and will continue to engage in “conduct with China” head to head” confrontation.

U.S. launches scrutiny of foreign apps

In addition to lifting the ban, the new decree also calls for the initiation of a review of foreign applications.

The decree requires the Secretary of Commerce to prepare two reports:

One report provides recommendations for executive and legislative action to address risks to applications governed by foreign governments, and another provides recommendations for preventing attacks by other countries from exploiting U.S. user information.

A White House briefing released on June 9 said Biden’s new executive order was designed to provide a standard for identifying and evaluating applications that could pose a risk to U.S. national security and the security of sensitive data. These apps could leak sensitive data such as personally identifiable information and genetic information to foreign adversaries in the United States, posing risks to U.S. data privacy and national security.

The new executive order adopts standards consistent with Executive Order 13873 and implementing regulations (on May 15, 2019, Trump issued Executive Order 13873 to “Secure Information and Communications Technology and Service Supply Chains” ), seeks to address the growing national security concerns of other countries conducting malicious cyberattacks against the United States through the ICTS supply chain, including economic and industrial espionage against the United States.

For example, ICTS transactions involving software applications (referring to the purchase, import, transfer, installation, transaction, or use of any ICTS, including ongoing activities – such as hosting services, data transfers, software updates, repairs, or platforms for applications or data escrow—transactions include any other transactions designed to circumvent the application of Presidential Decree.) may carry a higher level of risk. Transactions involving applications that are owned, controlled, or managed by those supporting a hostile nation’s military or intelligence activities could be exploited to collect sensitive personal data and engage in malicious cyber activity.

Additionally, the executive order establishes further strategies to protect sensitive personal data and address potential threats from certain software.

It directs the Commerce Department to negotiate with other U.S. departments and agencies to reduce risks in the sale, transfer, or acquisition of sensitive personal information, including personally identifiable information and genetic information. The Commerce Department also made recommendations for additional executive and legislative action to further mitigate risks associated with foreign applications.

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