Biden Reverses Trump's Ban on Chinese Apps TikTok, WeChat

But President Biden has ordered a new Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by the apps

But President Biden has ordered a new Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by the apps

President Joe Biden has revoked Trump-era bans on TikTok and WeChat, but at the same time ordered broader investigations into apps that could pose a risk to US data privacy or national security.

As per the order, criteria for apps that could pose a heightened risk include when "transactions involve applications that are owned, controlled, or managed by persons that support foreign adversary military or intelligence activities, or are involved in malicious cyber activities, or involve applications that collect sensitive personal data".

Trump had claimed the Chinese-owned apps posed national security risks and had sought to force the sale of TikTok to U.S. investors.

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 US nationals, Anne Neuberger, NSA's director of cybersecurity, told TechCrunch at Disrupt 2020.

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

"This data collection threatens to provide foreign adversaries with access to that information, ' it continues".

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TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., declined to 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.

The Biden administration's move reflects ongoing concern that Americans' personal data could be exposed by popular apps tied to China, a chief US economic and political rival.

The White House and Congress have both taken actions to address Beijing's technological advancement but officials say, moving forward, such actions will be "evidence-based".

Last week, Biden signed an executive order that bans United States investment in certain Chinese companies in the defence and surveillance technology sectors. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that aims to boost United States semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing worldwide competition.

The Trump administration contended that WeChat and TikTok posed national security concerns with the threat that the sensitive personal data of USA users could be collected by China's government.

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TikTok sought relief via the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a review of Trump's divestment order and the federal government's order to conduct a national security review.

The U.S. also is working on supply-chain issues meant to lessen the dependence on China.

The objective of collecting biometric data on TikTok is for enabling "special video effects, for content moderation, for demographic classification, for content and ad recommendations, and for other non-personally-identifying operations", the policies state.

To appease Trump, TikTok also explored potential sales to American firms, including Microsoft, Oracle and Walmart. The Trump administration also attempted to prevent those apps from operating within the United States, but ongoing court challenges prevented most of those orders from going into effect, the Verge reported.

ByteDance, TikTok's corporate owner, is still involved in those negotiations over a deal to ensure Americans' data is not in jeopardy of being accessed by Chinese authorities.

TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, is based in China.

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