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In an executive order titled, “Executive Order on Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries,” President Joe Biden revoked the Trump administration’s ban on the Chinese-backed social media platform TikTok.
Among the orders revoked was “Executive Order 13942 of August 6, 2020,” which was titled, “Addressing the Threat Posed by TikTok, and Taking Additional Steps To Address the National Emergency With Respect to the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain.” In addition, Biden revoked “Executive Order 13943,” which looked to ban Chinese messaging app, WeChat, and “Executive Order 13971,” which addressed threats “Posed by Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled by Chinese Companies.”
Describing China as a “foreign adversary” that “continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Biden’s new executive order instead directs the federal government to “evaluate these threats through rigorous, evidence-based analysis and should address any unacceptable or undue risks consistent with overall national security, foreign policy, and economic objectives, including the preservation and demonstration of America’s core values and fundamental freedoms.”
According to the order, the Secretary of Commerce “shall provide a report to the Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor with recommendations to protect against harm from the unrestricted sale of, transfer of, or access to United States persons’ sensitive data, including personally identifiable information, personal health information, and genetic information, and harm from access to large data repositories by persons owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of, a foreign adversary.”
Based on such analysis, the Secretary shall “evaluate on a continuing basis transactions involving connected software applications that may pose an undue risk of sabotage or subversion of the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of information and communications technology or services in the United States; pose an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of the critical infrastructure or digital economy of the United States; or otherwise pose an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons.”
“The new executive order is designed to replace the Trump administration’s approach targeting individual companies with a broader process for reviewing risks posed by apps that are connected to potentially hostile countries, according to senior Biden administration officials,” explained The Wall Street Journal.
According to officials, they “remain concerned about security risks from Chinese and certain other foreign-owned apps,” but claimed that “the executive orders signed by Mr. Trump were effectively unenforceable.”
The Trump administration’s earlier attempt to ban TikTok was blocked in September 2020 by a federal judge. It was also reported in February that the Biden administration had shelved another Trump administration plan, pausing the forced sale of TikTok “amid legal challenges.”
However, TikTok and other Chinese apps are “not out of the woods yet,” according to James Lewis, who “heads technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and has been in discussions with White House officials in both administrations about the future of the apps,” as reported by NPR.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a ban reinstated but on more rational grounds,” Lewis added. “If I was TikTok, I would be thinking about what do I do to ward off another ban.”