The White House dropped Trump-era executive orders meant to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks with software applications tied to China, officials said Wednesday.
The order Wednesday doesn't target any companies specifically. Two separate reports by the Commerce Secretary on recommendations for actions and additional executive and legislative measures must be completed in 120 days and 180 days respectively.
Former President Donald Trump's TikTok and WeChat bans were officially dropped on Wednesday, but scrutiny of the China-owned apps will continue under the Biden administration.
But a senior administration official said Wednesday that the Trump actions weren't "always 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.
Federal court rulings had blocked the orders from taking effect.
Chinese tech firms have produced a raft of top-ranking apps in the U.S. TikTok, which has been working to make Singapore its beachhead following the U.S. government's attempted ban, came in second among the free apps on the U.S. App Store as of writing. "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".
TikTok did not offer comment on the news.
The January order directed officials to ban transactions with eight Chinese apps including Ant Group's Alipay and Tencent Holdings Ltd's QQ Wallet and WeChat pay.
Instead, the US Department of Commerce will now review apps designed and developed by those in "the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary", such as China.
The Trump administration contended that WeChat and TikTok posed national security concerns with the threat that the sensitive personal data of US users could be collected by China's government.
The amount of data TikTok mines from its mobile phone users is on par with what other apps collect, including ones owned by Facebook and Google. Those companies have disputed those contentions. Separately, his attempt to force a sale of TikTok's US operations was also shelved. Courts temporarily blocked the White House's attempted ban, and the presidential election soon overshadowed the TikTok fight.
TikTok sought relief via the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a review of Trump's divestment order and the federal government's order to conduct a national security review. This authority was first issued by Trump and is now being implemented by the Biden administration. Chinese companies coveting the USA market will have to be better prepared for data compliance challenges. It added that TikTok's service did not contact any servers within China, but it was still theoretically possible that servers outside China could later transfer user data to China-based servers. Numerous newly targeted companies are subsidiaries and affiliates of major state-owned companies and other businesses named on the earlier blacklist.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that aims to boost USA semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing worldwide competition.
The executive order authorizes the Commerce Department to begin vetting foreign apps immediately.
The new order also calls for a security review of the apps.