WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House has abandoned Trump-era executive orders that tried to ban popular TikTok and WeChat apps and will conduct its own review to identify national security risks with China-related software applications officials said Wednesday.
A new executive order directs the Commerce Department to undertake what officials describe as “evidence-based” analysis of transactions involving apps that are manufactured, supplied or controlled by China. Officials are particularly concerned about apps that collect users’ personal data or have links to Chinese military or intelligence activities.
The department will also make recommendations on how to further protect Americans’ genetic and personal health information, and address the risks of certain software applications connected to China or other adversaries, senior administration officials say. .
The Biden administration’s decision reflects ongoing concern that Americans’ personal data could be exposed by popular apps linked to China, a main economic and political rival to the United States. Both the White House and Congress have taken steps to respond to Beijing’s technological advancements. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill to boost U.S. semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technologies in the face of growing international competition.
Earlier this year, the administration backed President Donald Trump’s attempts to ban the popular TikTok video app, asking a court to postpone litigation as the government began a broader review of national security threats posed by Chinese technology companies.
A court record said the Commerce Department is reviewing whether Trump’s claims about TikTok’s threat to national security justified attempts to ban it from smartphone app stores and deny it vital technical services. A review update was due in a court case later this week.
A plan to buy TikTok by the United States is also in limbo. Last year, the Trump administration negotiated a deal that would have allowed U.S. companies Oracle and Walmart to take a significant stake in the Chinese-owned app for national security reasons.
The unusual arrangement stems from an executive order by Trump that sought to ban TikTok in the United States unless he accepts greater American control.
Trump targeted TikTok in the summer of 2020 with a series of orders raising concerns about the U.S. data TikTok collects from its users. Courts temporarily blocked the White House ban attempt, and the presidential election quickly overshadowed the fight against TikTok.
TikTok has asked the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals for the United States to review Trump’s divestment order and the government’s national security review.
O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island and Arbel from New York.
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