The Biden administration has reversed three Trump-era executive orders, which could have drastic national security implications. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) called the move “a major mistake.”
President Joe Biden signed an executive order to “elaborate upon measures to address the national emergency with respect to the information and communications technology and services supply chain.” The executive order titled “Executive Order on Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries” not only overturned former President Donald Trump’s ban of communist Chinese-owned apps like TikTok and WeChat, but it also established new criteria for determining whether foreign-owned apps constitute a threat. Senator Hawley commented on Biden’s executive order, bashing it in a tweet: “This is a major mistake - shows alarming complacency regarding #China’s access to Americans’ personal information, as well as #China’s growing corporate influence.”
Biden’s executive order recognized that some foreign applications can be a threat. He particularly cited the “People’s Republic of China” as a threat to “national security.” However, instead of simply reevaluating Trump’s policies, Biden apparently decided to start from scratch. The federal government will establish its own set of standards for whether foreign-owned apps, like TikTok and WeChat, are safe. “The Federal Government should evaluate these threats through rigorous, evidence-based analysis and should address any unacceptable or undue risks consistent with overall national security, foreign policy, and economic objectives, including the preservation and demonstration of America’s core values and fundamental freedoms,” read the new executive order.
The Biden executive order also outlined new criteria for determining whether to ban software in the future. The order stated that the Secretary of Commerce should create a criteria for determining whether apps: “may pose an undue risk of sabotage or subversion of the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of information and communications technology or services in the United States.” The executive order also sought to ban applications that may “pose an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of the critical infrastructure or digital economy of the United States; or otherwise pose an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons.”
A report from The Wall Street Journal found that TikTok was able to collect user data by exploiting a privacy loophole in Google’s Android operating system. The loophole enabled the app to track users online without allowing them to opt out. Trump attempted to ban TikTok and WeChat last year, citing national security concerns. Ironically, Biden’s campaign appeared to have recognized the potential danger of TikTok as well. The campaign reportedly told its staff to delete the app in August 2020. The U.S. military also banned the app from officially issued phones.
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