White House Launches Broader Scrutiny of Foreign Tech


An executive order signed by President Joe Biden this week removed a Trump-era measure that barred Americans from downloading TikTok and several other Chinese smartphone apps. But analysts say the order also broadens the scrutiny of foreign-controlled technology.

Biden’s move replaced three Trump administration executive orders that sought to ban downloads of TikTok and WeChat and transactions with eight other Chinese apps. count Asked the Commerce Department to launch a national security review of apps owned or controlled by a foreign adversary.

Analysts said that even though TikTok and WeChat were not named in the executive order, they were not fully approved by the administration.

according to a white house fact sheet, the order will provide clear criteria for identifying transactions involving software linked to foreign adversaries that could pose a risk to US national security.

“The Biden administration is committed to promoting an open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet, protecting human rights online and offline, and supporting a vibrant, global digital economy,” the document said. “Some countries, including the People’s Republic of China, do not share these values ​​and seek to take advantage of digital technologies and data from Americans that present unacceptable national security risks while furthering authoritarian control and interests.”

The order also sets time limits for executive branch officials to form committees to study the risks posed by foreign controlled technology and make policy recommendations.

overcoming legal challenges

Analysts say the new process could help address legal challenges that back the Trump administration’s executive orders.

Courts blocked two executive orders aimed at banning WeChat and TikTok, issued by former President Donald Trump in August 2020. Another, released in January 2021, aimed at banning transactions with eight other Chinese apps, has not taken effect.

James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the new order removed the legal challenges that Trump-era sanctions were facing.

“The executive order lays out a strong basis for deciding when to act, and lays out the objections of the court with its clear criteria for the decision. EO puts us in [a] Better place by creating strong criteria and a good process for decisions,” Lewis told Granthshala in an email.

FILE – A counter promoting WeChat, Tencent’s product for reading books for the blind, is displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong on March 18, 2015.

“This means that TikTok may have to undergo another review, and any decision will not be easily challenged in court,” he said. “It’s the start of the second round, and TikTok can’t go down so smoothly this time.”

Asked during a briefing on Wednesday whether the White House still intended to ban TikTok or WeChat, an administration official told reporters that the new process and norms for all the apps listed on the canceled executive orders will be reviewed under

key command stands

Julian Koo, a law professor at Hofstra University in Hampstead, New York, told Granthshala that Biden had maintained One of Trump’s Most Important Executive Orders. Trump signed the “Securing Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain” order in May 2019, declaring a national emergency posed by foreign adversaries “that rapidly create and exploit vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services.” are doing.”

Biden is “not rescinding the basic framework that the US government should seek to prevent the transfer of personal data to a foreign adversary,” Kuo told Granthshala in a phone interview. “It reserves the right in principle to come back and go after companies or other companies that could potentially put America’s personal data at risk.”

Both TikTok and WeChat did not respond to Granthshala’s request for comment.

TikTok, a social networking app for sharing short, user-generated video clips, and WeChat, an app that includes messaging, social media and payment platforms, both collect extensive data on their users. The main concern is that the Chinese government will be able to access this data and potentially take advantage of it for espionage or blackmail. US officials also worry that heavy censorship of these apps will result in the spread of partisan political opinion and misinformation.

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Biden’s move but warned against “taking us down the same deviant path by serving as a smokescreen for future sanctions or other illegal actions” with the need for a new security review. The rights group considered the Trump-era ban a violation of First Amendment rights.

Senator Josh Hawley criticized Biden’s move, calling it a “big mistake.”

“This shows alarming complacency regarding China’s access to personal information of Americans as well as China’s growing corporate influence,” he said on Twitter.

Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at Thursday’s daily briefing that the repeal of Trump-era sanctions was “a step in the right direction” and that officials expected Chinese companies to be “fairly treated”.

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