The White House fell Trump-era executive orders meant to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its review aimed at identifying national security risks with software programs tied to China, officials said Wednesday.
A new executive order directs the Commerce Department to undertake that which officials describe as an”evidence-based” evaluation of transactions involving apps that are manufactured or supplied or controlled by China. Officials are particularly concerned about programs that collect users’ personal data or have connections to Chinese military or intelligence activities.
In revoking some of President Donald Trump’s blanket-style orders against Chinese tech companies and replacing them with a narrower approach, the Biden administration has not actually weighed in yet on whether TikTok and other apps pose a danger to Americans.
But a senior administration official said Wednesday that the Trump actions weren’t”consistently implemented in the soundest fashion” and the aim of the review is to set up clear criteria to evaluate specific data security and privacy risks for each app. He said that could lead to a range of potential future actions on an app-by-app basis.
“We wish to have a tailored, demanding approach here,” he said.
The department will also make recommendations on how to further protect Americans’ hereditary and private health advice, and will tackle the risks of certain applications programs connected to China or other adversaries, according to senior administration officials.
TikTok on Wednesday declined to comment. WeChat did not respond to a request for comment.
The Trump government’s attempted bans did not hold up legally as courts blocked them, and “ran up against this critique that they were mimicking China’s Great Firewall,” said Samm Sacks, a fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center. “What the Biden administration wants to do is maintain an open, secure internet that doesn’t take a page from Beijing’s playbook, while addressing legitimate risk.”
The Biden government’s move reflects ongoing concern that Americans’ private data could be subjected by popular programs tied to China, a chief U.S. economic and political rival. The White House and Congress have taken action to tackle Beijing’s technological progress.
The Biden government last week expanded a Trump-era list of Chinese companies that Americans can not invest in due to purported links to the Chinese military and surveillance. Firms on the list include China’s state-owned telecommunications companies, telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei and Chinese oil company China National Offshore Oil Corp.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill which aims to boost U.S. semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technologies from th