President Joe Biden is revoking Trump-era bans on the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat on Wednesday, and instead will review software applications from foreign adversaries that could pose a risk to Americans' sensitive data, senior administration officials said.
The order Wednesday doesn't target any companies specifically.
The executive order recognizes that the data collection "threatens to provide foreign adversaries with access to that information".
According to the Associated Press, the new executive order "directs the Commerce Department to undertake what officials describe as an "evidence-based" analysis of transactions involving apps that are manufactured or supplied or controlled by China".
The Biden administration last week expanded a Trump-era list of Chinese companies that Americans can't invest in because of purported links to the Chinese military and surveillance.More news: Multiple Fatalities After Pedestrians Struck by Vehicle in London
Federal court rulings had blocked the orders from taking effect.
The Commerce Department agreed at that time to "comply with the injunction" but defended Trump's executive order demanding that TikTok's owner divest itself of operations in USA companies. TikTok declined to comment.
The U.S. Department of Commerce, Tencent and ByteDance could not be immediately reached for comment.
The new executive order should lead to a 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, said Paul Triolo, a tech policy expert at the Eurasia Group consultancy. Those companies have disputed those contentions. But those efforts stalled amid litigation over the legality of Trump's executive actions. The court had determined the ban was "arbitrary and capricious" because the Trump administration failed "to adequately consider an obvious and reasonable alternative before banning TikTok".
A separate US national security review of TikTok launched in late 2019 remains active and ongoing, a White House official said, declining to offer any details. This authority was first issued by Trump and is now being implemented by the Biden administration.More news: United Kingdom minister says Delta variant 40 percent more transmissible
In March, the USA joined allies in imposing sanctions against Chinese officials engaged in the mass incarceration of mainly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
The administration argued that Americans' private data gathered through the app could be handed over to the authoritarian regime in China, something TikTok has said it would never do. Numerous newly targeted companies are subsidiaries and affiliates of major state-owned companies and other businesses named on the earlier blacklist. Trump had also attempted to force the sale of TikTok. Tuesday the Senate approved a $250 billion bill boosting government spending on technology research and development amid rising competition from China and other nations.
Next week, President Biden is due to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and the two are expected to announce a partnership around technology and trade, in an attempt to push back on China's rise as a technology superpower.
The order directs the secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense, the attorney general, the secretary of Health and Human Services, the secretary of Homeland Security, the director of National Intelligence, and the heads of other agencies as the secretary of Commerce deems appropriate, to recommend actions to protect Americans' data on platforms owned or controlled by a "foreign adversary" within 120 days.
Former President Donald Trump's TikTok and WeChat bans were officially dropped on Wednesday, but scrutiny of the China-owned apps will continue under the Biden administration.More news: 'I was right about Wuhan lab': Trump demands China pay $10 trillion
But the Biden administration approach still faces challenges in addressing the complex problems raised by the global internet.