Biden withdraws Trump WeChat and TikTok orders
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. CFIUS had set deadlines for TikTok to divest its US operations, but such a sale never happened.
It's no secret that American tech companies like Facebook and Google also collect large amounts of user data, but the "scope and scale" of TikTok's app's data collection makes it easier for Chinese spies to answer "all kinds of different intelligence questions" on USA nationals, Anne Neuberger, NSA's director of cybersecurity, told TechCrunch at Disrupt 2020.
TikTok slammed the Trump order.
The Commerce Department is also directed to "make recommendations to protect against harm from the sale, transfer of, or access to sensitive personal data" of USA customers to foreign adversaries. However, Biden is demanding that the commerce secretary investigate apps owned by firms in foreign countries that could be considered a national security and privacy risk to the U.S. Trump's ban turned into an unsuccessful attempt by the administration to turn over ownership of TikTok in the U.S.to American companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Twitter and Walmart.
This includes apps that could be used to support military or intelligence activities by other countries, or could be used to collect sensitive personal data, the White House said.
Trump's executive actions targeting ByteDance, a Beijing-based firm that owns TikTok, and WeChat, which is owned by the Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings, were blocked by several federal court orders.
Commerce will take action under existing authority that allows it to block transactions in the information and communications technology services supply chain. However, the new order did not address deadlines set by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in the Trump era for ByteDance to divest from TikTok.
The action is the latest sign of the Biden administration's emerging China policy, which represents a tougher approach acknowledging Beijing's economic and geopolitical strength.
The U.S. also is working on supply-chain issues meant to lessen the dependence on China. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that aims to boost U.S. semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing global competition.
Mr. Biden departed Wednesday for his first overseas trip as president and will meet with European and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders as well as hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The executive order authorizes the Commerce Department to begin vetting foreign apps immediately.
The administration of former President Donald Trump had attempted to block new users from downloading the apps and ban other technical transactions that Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat both said would effectively block the apps' use in the United States.
"We may collect information about the images and audio that are a part of your User Content, such as identifying the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content", the app's updated privacy policies read, as first reported by tech news outlet TechCrunch.