A brand new executive order directs the Commerce Department to tackle what officials describe as an"evidence-based" evaluation of transactions involving programs that are manufactured or controlled or supplied by China. Officials are particularly concerned about apps that collect users' personal data or have connections to Chinese army or intelligence activities.
In revoking some of President Donald Trump's blanket-style orders against Chinese technology businesses and substituting them with a thinner approach, the Biden administration hasn't actually weighed in yet on if TikTok along with other programs pose a danger to Americans.
But a senior administration official said Wednesday the Trump actions weren't"always implemented from the soundest fashion" and the purpose of the review is to set up clear criteria to evaluate specific data privacy and security risks for each program. He explained that could lead to a range of potential future activities within an app-by-app basis.
"We want to take a tailored, tough approach here," he said.
The section will make recommendations about how best to further protect Americans' genetic and private health advice, and will tackle the risks of certain applications programs connected to China or other adversaries, according to senior administration officials.
WeChat didn't respond to a request for comment.
The Trump government's attempted bans did not hold up as courts blocked them, and also"ran up against this review 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 government wants to do is maintain an open, secure net that does not take a page from Beijing's playbook, while preventing valid risk."
The Biden administration's move reflects continuing concern that Americans' private data could be exposed by popular programs 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 progress.
The Biden government last week enlarged a Trump-era record of Chinese businesses that Americans can not invest in due to purported links to the Chinese military and surveillance. Companies on the list include China's state-owned telecommunications businesses, telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei and Chinese oil firm China National Offshore Oil Corp..
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that aims to boost U.S. semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing global competition. The bill would also ban the federal government's use of Chinese-made drones.
The new executive order should result in some framework for protecting Americans' data from China, rather than targeting specific companies, and could pressure Congress to enact a data-security law in the years ahead, stated Paul Triolo, a tech policy expert at the Eurasia Group consultancy.
Courts had blocked the Trump administration's attempts last year to prohibit TikTok, a movie program popular with young people, and messaging service WeChat, however, a national-security inspection of TikTok with a government group called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the USA, or CFIUS, is continuing.
This past year, the Trump administration brokered a deal that would have experienced U.S. corporations Oracle and Walmart have a large stake in the Chinese-owned app on national security grounds. Walmart declined to comment.
The Biden administration earlier this season had backed off President Donald Trump's efforts to prohibit TikTok and WeChat since it reviewed national security dangers posed by Chinese tech firms. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has put on hold a case challenging Trump's TikTok divestment order.
A cybersecurity and privacy evaluation of TikTok published in March from the internet watchdog group Citizen Lab discovered no evidence of malicious behaviour and said TikTok's methods of collecting personal data and assessing users' behaviour weren't any worse than other important social programs like facebook.
"Our study proves that there is no overt data transmission to the Chinese authorities by TikTok," the report said. It added that TikTok's service didn't contact any servers in China, but it was still theoretically possible that servers outside China could transfer user data into China-based servers.
Citizen Lab, located at the University of Toronto, also described a"plausible" though insecure scenario in which the Chinese government could use among its national security laws to induce TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, to turn over consumer data, but said there is no evidence China has yet exerted such strain on the provider.