Saturday, June 19, 2021

Biden Revokes Ban On TikTok And WeChat; Places Them Under Security Review Instead

US president Joe Biden has recently revoked former president Trump’s executive orders to ban TikTok and WeChat. Issued last year, the ban was intended to halt downloads and usage of both apps in the country due to allegations of potentially sharing data of US citizens to Chinese authorities.

While TikTok and WeChat are no longer subjected to the US government’s banhammer, both apps are not entirely in the clear just yet. It turns out that Biden has signed a new order to conduct thorough security reviews of software and applications developed by those living under the jurisdiction of a “foreign adversary” such as China and Russia. Basically, this new order aims to set out guidelines for “evidence-based” analysis of these apps in order to determine if their data management practices does indeed pose a security threat to the country.

Besides the two aforementioned apps, the US government had previously set its sights on the mobile photo manipulation tool FaceApp back in 2019, after it had reached virality among users in the country and across the globe. It was alleged that Russian authorities have been relying on the app, which is developed by St Petersburg-based developer Wireless Labs, to collect user data – especially those from the US.

“The administration is committed to promoting an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet and to protecting human rights online and offline, and to supporting a vibrant global digital economy,” a US senior administration official said during a press conference. “The challenge that we’re addressing with this [executive order] is that certain countries, including China, do not share these commitments or values and are instead working to leverage digital technologies and American data in ways that present unacceptable national security risks.”

It was previously reported that Oracle and Walmart was set to purchase ByteDance’s TikTok app and IP in order to stave off the former Trump administration’s orders. However, the deal was placed on indefinite hold after months of delays. With the app now no longer at risk of getting banned by the US government, the deal could very well be considered as irrelevant.

The fate for other China-based apps that were added in the list of banned software towards the end of former president Trump’s term are still unknown at this time. These include applications such as Alipay, WeChat Pay, QQ Wallet, Tencent QQ, and many others.

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