Biden Introduces Broader Review of Foreign-Controlled Apps

President Biden revoked former President Trump’s executive order banning social-networking services TikTok and WeChat — developed by Chinese companies ByteDance and Tencent Holdings, respectively — but didn’t let Chinese companies off the hook. Instead, he replaced the previous order with another that establishes a broader review of the potential security risks found in numerous foreign-controlled apps. Biden officials said the new order would create “clear intelligible criteria” to evaluate those risks. Trump’s executive order was immediately challenged in court, and Biden’s move, said analysts, is intended to withstand such a test.

The New York Times reports that, with Biden “repeatedly emphasizing that growing Chinese influence has challenged not only the future of the American economy but democracy itself, his administration has worked to reassess or strengthen several directives Trump made to curb China.” For example, Biden broadened the Trump order to bar Americans “from investing in Chinese firms linked to the country’s military or engaged in selling surveillance technology.”

Although TikTok “is still under scrutiny with the Biden administration’s new executive order, analysts say the dramatic ups and downs for the company will significantly dwindle.”

Under Biden’s order, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will “use a criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis” to take a closer look at apps “designed, manufactured or developed by a ‘foreign adversary,’ including China.”

The Commerce Department memo said that, “the Biden administration is committed to promoting an open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet,” adding that, “certain countries,” including China, “do not share these democratic values.” But Biden’s order “did not name specific companies … [and] also does not mention specific retaliatory measures that could be taken if an application is found to be a threat to national security.”

CNN reports that the recent executive order “highlights how the Biden administration shares many of the same national security concerns as the Trump administration regarding Chinese-made mobile apps, even as Biden withdraws the specific orders targeting individual companies.”

TikTok is still in negotiation with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) “on ways it could secure the data of U.S. users … [and] the Biden administration’s new executive order does not affect those negotiations.”