Executive Order Bans More Chinese Apps

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued another Executive Order banning eight additional Chinese Apps. This follows an Executive Order that banned WeChat and TikTok transactions. The new Executive Order bans transactions with Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office in an effort to resolve purported national security threats.

President Trump used his authority to issue the Executive Order banning the Chinese affiliated apps over national security concerns for “information and communications technology and services supply chain” as described in a previous Executive Order. In particular, the order addresses 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 President is seeking to remedy the purported threats posed by these additional “Chinese connected software applications.”

According to the Executive Order, these apps can access and collect large amounts of user information, including personally identifiable information and other private information by accessing users’ electronic devices. Consequently, this collection purportedly “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,” allowing China to “track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, and build dossiers of personal information.” The Executive Order noted that many government departments and agencies have already banned the use of Chinese affiliated apps and other software on federal government computers and mobile phones; however, according to the order, this is not enough.

Pursuant to the Executive Order, transactions with these apps will be banned after 45 days, the specific transactions will be defined by the Department of Commerce. The Department must also provide recommendations to prevent the sale or transfer of or access to Americans’ data by foreign entities through various regulations and policies. The Secretary of Commerce is tasked with continuing to evaluate Chinese affiliated software applications that could threaten the United States and to take further actions if necessary. The Executive Order noted that any transaction that evades, avoids, or violates the prohibitions or attempts to do such is prohibited. The Executive Order bars additional conduct and lists other actions for the government to take.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross asserted that the Department of Commerce will “begin implementing the E.O.’s directives, including identifying prohibited transactions related to certain Chinese connected software applications.” He said, “I stand with President Trump’s commitment to protecting the privacy and security of Americans from threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party, and the Department of Commerce will leverage the authorities of  the E.O. to continue our mission to secure the nation, the economy, and the people of the United States.”

As part of the prior bans, the Department of Commerce issued prohibitions against the Chinese-held companies. Additionally, the bans led to litigation by WeChat users and TikTok, however, in September, a judge blocked the WeChat ban and two judges granted injunctions blocking the different TikTok prohibitions. The newly banned companies could follow a similar strategy to WeChat and TikTok and file litigation to fight the Executive Order in the courts.