Biden govt drops Trump order against TikTok, plans review

Published June 10, 2021
cons for the smartphone apps TikTok and WeChat are seen on a smartphone screen in Beijing. — AP/File
cons for the smartphone apps TikTok and WeChat are seen on a smartphone screen in Beijing. — AP/File

WASHINGTON: The White House dropped Trump-era executive orders intended 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 on Wednesday.

A new executive order directs the Commerce Department to undertake what officials describe as an evidence-based analysis of transactions involving apps that are manufactured or supplied or controlled by China. Officials are particularly concerned about apps 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 that the Trump actions were’nt 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. He said that could lead to a range of potential future actions on an app-by-app basis. We want to take a tailored, tough approach here, he said.

The department will also make recommendations on how to further protect Americans’ genetic and personal health information, and will address the risks of certain software apps 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 administration’s attempted bans didn’t hold up legally as courts blocked them, and also ran up against this critique that they were mimicking China’s Great Firewall,” said Samm Sacks, a fellow at Yale Law Schools Paul Tsai China Center.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2021

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