Miami Herald

U.S. drops Trump order targeting TikTok, plans its own review

- BY MATT O'BRIEN, ERIC TUCKER AND TALI ARBEL

The White House dropped Trump-era executive orders intended to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifyin­g national security risks with software applicatio­ns tied to China, officials said Wednesday.

A new executive order directs the Commerce Department to undertake what officials describe as an “evidence-based” analysis of transactio­ns involving apps that are manufactur­ed or supplied or controlled by China. Officials are particular­ly concerned about apps that collect users’ personal data or have connection­s to Chinese military or intelligen­ce activities.

In revoking some of President Donald Trump’s blanket-style orders against Chinese tech companies and replacing them with a narrower approach, the

Biden administra­tion has not actually weighed in yet on whether TikTok and other apps pose a danger to Americans.

But a senior administra­tion official said Wednesday that the Trump actions weren’t “always implemente­d in the soundest fashion” and the aim of the review is to set up clear criteria to evaluate specific data security and privacy risks for each app. He said that could lead to a range of potential future actions on an app-by-app basis.

“We want to take a tailored, tough approach here,” he said.

The department will also make recommenda­tions on how to further protect Americans’ genetic and personal health informatio­n, and will address the risks of certain software apps connected to China or other adversarie­s, according to senior administra­tion officials.

TikTok on Wednesday declined to comment. WeChat did not respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administra­tion’s attempted bans didn’t hold up legally as courts blocked them, and also “ran up against this critique that they were mimicking China’s Great Firewall,” said Samm Sacks, a fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center. “What the Biden administra­tion wants to do is maintain an open, secure internet that doesn’t take a page from Beijing’s playbook, while addressing legitimate risk.”

The Biden administra­tion’s move reflects ongoing concern that Americans’ personal data could be exposed by popular apps tied to China, a chief U.S. economic and political rival. The White House and Congress have both taken action to address Beijing’s technologi­cal advancemen­t.

Last week, Biden expanded a Trump-era list of Chinese companies that Americans can’t invest in because of possible links to the Chinese military and surveillan­ce.

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