Trump bans China-linked apps for collecting Americans’ data

United States President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning eight Chinese apps considered to be a threat to US national security, economy, and foreign policy.

The order signed on Tuesday bans “any transaction by any person [..] with persons that develop or control” the Chinese connected software applications “or with their subsidiaries” not later than 45 days.

The eight apps targeted by Trump’s new executive order are Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office.

Moving to ban the apps is designed to secure the country’s information and communications technology, as well as the services supply chain which is considered a national emergency according to Executive Order 13873, signed on May 15, 2019.

“At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by these Chinese connected software applications,” the executive order says.

“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.”

Trump added that the ban is required despite many executive departments and agencies having already prohibited the apps’ use on Federal Government computers and mobile phones.

He also highlighted the Indian Government’s ban of over 200 Chinese connected apps for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.”

This data collection threatens to provide the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — which would permit China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information. [..] The United States has assessed that a number of Chinese connected software applications automatically capture vast swaths of information from millions of users in the United States, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information, which would allow the PRC and CCP access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information. — Donald Trump

This executive order follows two similar orders signed in August 2020 banning any transactions with the companies behind WeChat (Tencent Holdings Ltd) and TikTok (ByteDance Ltd).

In December, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also issued an advisory to warn American businesses of the data theft risks behind using data services and equipment provided by companies linked with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“For too long, U.S. networks and data have been exposed to cyber threats based in China which are using that data to give Chinese firms an unfair competitive advantage in the global marketplace,” DHS Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf said at the time.

“Practices that give the PRC government unauthorized access to sensitive data – both personal and proprietary – puts the U.S. economy and businesses at direct risk for exploitation. We urge businesses to exercise caution before entering into any agreement with a PRC-linked firm.”

On the same day, the US State Department also warned that American investors are funding CCP and Communist Chinese military companies (CCMCs) involved in tech production for “the surveillance of civilians and repression of human rights.”