Trump Executive Order Attempts to Ban 8 More Chinese Apps

Freer/Shutterstock.com

The move adds more Chinese companies—including three payment apps—to a list that already included TikTok and WeChat.

An executive order issued late Tuesday looks to expand earlier attempts by the Trump administration to block U.S. citizens from using certain Chinese apps, including some that process financial transactions.

The “Executive Order Addressing the Threat Posed By Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled By Chinese Companies” issued Tuesday would prohibit the use of eight apps built and operated by Chinese businesses in an attempt to limit the amount of U.S. data going to the Chinese government.

“The pace and pervasiveness of the spread in the United States of certain connected mobile and desktop applications and other software developed or controlled by persons in the People's Republic of China, to include Hong Kong and Macau, continue to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” the order states. “By accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, Chinese connected software applications can access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information.”

The new order extends previous pronouncements to include eight more China-based apps, three of which handle financial transactions: Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay and WPS Office.

Under the order, “certain future transactions” would be prohibited, as determined by the commerce secretary.

On a call with reporters Tuesday evening, a senior administration official with the National Security Council noted apps, especially those on smartphones, collect a wealth of data on the user. In the case of Chinese-owned and -operated apps, that data is going to Chinese businesses, which are obliged to share that data with the Chinese government, the official said.

“I think we’re all aware that Beijing requires, really, all commercial companies, no matter how large or small, to support the Chinese Communist Party’s political objectives,” they said.

During the call, reporters noted executive orders in August attempting to ban TikTok and the messaging side of WeChat have been tied up in the courts and not implemented. The administration official suggested those bans were being held up on First Amendment grounds, as they are social media platforms.

“That particular case would probably not be easily brought against some of these other applications that we’ve named today,” they said.

While the executive order cites previous hacking campaigns attributed to the Chinese government—including the 2015 hack of the Office of Personnel Management— and “the continuing activity of the PRC and the Chinese Communist Party to steal or otherwise obtain United States persons' data,” the companies cited have not been accused of hacking user devices or any other unlawful activity.

“The software applications that were chosen were largely chosen based on risk,” the administration official said. “We cannot get into whether and what type of information we may or may not have regarding specific applications … and what other nefarious or otherwise activity is being done by some of these companies.”

But the biggest issue, according to the official, is scale.

“If you look up some of these apps, they all have extremely high numbers of users and downloads,” they said. “We’re talking tens of millions of devices. And the mass collection of information and data going into PRC—whatever government department, AI algorithms, or what have you—the potential for that is what we’re talking about: the risk.”

Per the order, the commerce secretary is also charged with identifying any additional Chinese apps to add to the list and develop a report “with recommendations to prevent the sale or transfer of United States user data to, or access of such data by, foreign adversaries.” Those recommendations should include “regulations and policies to identify, control and license the export of such data.”

“I think every American ought to look at what these apps seek to do … in terms of what happens when you allow these applications to gain access to your phone, what information they pass back, essentially to the Chinese Communist Party, to people that are by law—by Chinese law—required to comply with the secret directives of the Chinese Communist Party,” the official said. “It essentially feeds them tools of mass oppression for billions of people worldwide. And we’re just not interested in facilitating that.”

But as with the TikTok and WeChat bans, federal watchers say this order is unlikely to have much effect.

“On its face, I don't think this is hugely impactful,” Stan Soloway, president and CEO of Celero Strategies and a former Defense Department acquisition official, told Nextgov.After all, all it does is tell [the commerce secretary] to study the issue and to work with the broader [intelligence community] to assess risk.”

Soloway cited other moves directed at Chinese companies as having a much bigger impact here at home, including executive orders and legislation banning the use of telecommunications equipment from vendors like Huawei and ZTE and prohibiting selling certain U.S.-based technologies to Chinese companies.

That said, he was in favor of having the Commerce Department look deeper into these companies and the data being collected.

“I suspect most people would consider those kinds of analyses to be prudent given what we know,” he said. “But this new EO is just a first step. It raises an issue worth looking at. And reinforces the fact that we have a number of such issues to come to grips with.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.