The administration Joe Biden on Thursday dumped a Donald Trump administration ban on new downloads of TikTok, WeChat and eight other communications and financial technology software applications.
Trump announced that he was using an executive order last year to ban new downloads of the popular video-sharing app TikTok in the US and limiting the use of WeChat because of national security concerns, specifically that the two were owned or connected to Chinese companies.
The Trump administration said the Chinese could spy on Americans’ data.
But the executive orders faced legal challenges. Technology experts said TikTok was actually fairly secure on users’ data and questioned whether the orders would do much to dent the risk of data breaches. And Facebook’s former chief security officer compared Trump orders to the same kind of censorship employed by China.
In the announcement Wednesday, the White House said right off the top that it, too, was concerned that China does “not share the values” of an open, secure, internet and that China seeks “to leverage Americans’ data in ways that prevent unacceptable national security risks while advancing authoritarian controls.”
But in ditching Trump’s orders, the Biden administration’s new executive orders essentially use a scalpel, rather than a hammer, to crack down on potential Chinese software spying.
It said the new orders direct the use of “criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis” to figure out the risks posed by downloading software that is connected to any foreign adversary, including China. The administration also said the orders take “strong steps to protect Americans’ sensitive data.”