President Joe Biden's executive order to protect the sensitive data of Americans forces some Chinese apps to take tougher measures to protect private information if they want to stay in the US market. The goal is to prevent foreign adversaries such as China and Russia from gaining access to large amounts of personal and private business information.
Biden's June 9 order replaced former President Donald Trump's 2020 decisions against popular Chinese apps WeChat, owned by Tencent, and ByteDance's TikTok. US courts suspended this ban. US officials share many of the concerns Trump mentioned in his order to ban TikTok.
Notably, they fear that China could track the locations of US government employees, create files of personal information for extortion, and conduct corporate espionage. Although the new order does not name the companies, it could punish more applications of Trump's ban and hold out better if challenged in court.
Reuters was the first to report details of how the Biden administration planned to implement the order. Including seeking support from other countries. A source said US officials have begun talking to allies about adopting a similar approach. They hope that partner countries will agree on which apps should be blocked.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo decides which apps the US targets, but they must meet certain criteria. For example, it must be owned, controlled, or operated by a person or entity that supports the military or intelligence activities of a foreign adversary such as China or Russia.
The Commerce Department spokesperson said, if Raimondo determines that an application presents an unacceptable risk, Raimondo has the discretion to notify the parties directly or publish the information in the government's official daily bulletin. Companies will have 30 days to object or propose measures to better secure the data.
This process stems from Trump's May 2019 executive order to review the information and communications technology from foreign adversaries.
Chinese apps are likely to find themselves in the Commerce Department's crosshairs, given the escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing. In addition to the ability of the Chinese government to impose its control over companies and the number of Chinese applications used by Americans.
Reuters said, TikTok, WeChat, and eight other apps targeted by the Trump administration in its final months are eligible for review by Biden's team.
Trump's targets also included Alipay, WeChat Pay, QQ Wallet, Tencent QQ, CamScanner, SHAREit, VMate, UCWeb, and WPS Office. Some applications have serious data protection issues. The order applies to business applications, including those used in banking and telecommunications, as well as consumer applications.
Apps linked to other adversaries such as Iran or Venezuela are banned under broader sanctions.