Wed, 28 Jul 2021

Apps in China face subpoenas, being banned in U.S.

Robert Besser
21 Jun 2021, 09:21 GMT+10

WASHINGTON D.C.: President Joe Biden has issued an executive order which could result in several Chinese apps being investigated or banned.

The move seeks to safeguard Americans' sensitive data and prevent foreign adversaries, such as China and Russia, from gaining access to large amounts of personal and proprietary business information.

The U.S. Department of Commerce may issue subpoenas to collect information about certain smartphone, tablet, and desktop computer software applications and negotiate conditions for their use in the United States or outright ban the apps.

Biden's June 9 order replaced former President Donald Trump's 2020 bans on Chinese applications WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings Co, and ByteDance Ltd's TikTok. U.S. courts had earlier halted those Chinese companies from being banned.

While the new order does not name specific companies, it could end up including more apps than Trump had banned and hold up better in court.

U.S. officials have begun discussions with allies about adopting a similar approach and hope that partner countries will agree on apps that should be banned, a source said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will decide which apps to target for U.S. action, but they must meet certain criteria.

If Raimondo feels an app poses a risk, she "has the discretion to notify the parties" directly or publish the information in the government's official daily publication, the Federal Register, a Commerce Department spokesman said.

Companies will then have 30 days to object or propose measures to better secure data, the Commerce spokesman said.

WeChat, TikTok, and eight other apps targeted by the Trump administration in its last months are eligible for review by the Biden administration, one source said.

Some of the apps named by Trump have serious data protection issues, while it's unclear why others pose a heightened risk to national security.

The order will apply to business apps, including those used in banking and telecommunications, as well as consumer apps.

Apps linked to other adversaries, such as Iran and Venezuela, are already blocked under broader sanctions.

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