US President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Tuesday titled “Executive Order Addressing the Threat Posed By Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled By Chinese Companies.” The order, signed during Trump’s final two weeks in office, bans eight connected software applications.
The apps that are banned under this order include Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay and WPS Office.
Trump’s order states:
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.
As such, it states that the US “must take aggressive action against those who develop or control Chinese connected software applications to protect our national security.” The order notes that these applications are already prohibited for use by those in executive departments and agencies using government computers and mobile phones. However, Trump wrote that the “continuing activity of the PRC and the CCP to steal or otherwise obtain United States persons’ data makes clear that there is an intent to use bulk data collection to advance China’s economic and national security agenda.”
The order cites the 2017 Equifax cyber intrusion, a 2015 hacking of US health insurance company Anthem, and 2014 cyber intrusions of security clearance records in the Office of Personnel Management.
The executive order reflects ongoing cybersecurity issues in the country. In October the Department of Justice indicted Russian officers for global cyberattacks. There have also been hacks to various private devices and US agencies, including the FBI and NSA, that have been attributed to Russia, though Trump baselessly suggested the hacks may have come from China.
This is also not the first time Trump has used executive orders to sanction and ban Chinese platforms. In August he signed an executive order to sanction and eventually ban TikTok and WeChat. These platforms are not currently banned, however, as both have various appeals and challenges to the order going through the courts.
The ban goes into effect 45 days after the order issuance, and it prohibits any transaction with these apps. It will therefore be up to President-elect Joe Biden to decide whether to enforce or remove the order.