WASHINGTON: The US Commerce Department said on Tuesday (Oct 12) it submitted an initial set of recommendations on data security under an executive order signed by President Joe Biden.
In June, Biden withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders that sought to ban new downloads of WeChat and TikTok, and ordered a Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by those apps.
The order directed Commerce to make recommendations by last Thursday to protect US data acquired or accessible by companies controlled by foreign adversaries.
"The department submitted an initial set of recommendations to the administration’s key national security advisers," a Commerce spokesperson said.
The administration of former President Donald Trump had attempted to block new users from downloading the apps and ban other technical transactions that Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok and WeChat both said would effectively block the apps' use in the United States.
US courts blocked those orders, which never took effect.
The Trump administration contended that WeChat and TikTok posed national security concerns because sensitive personal data of US users could be collected by China’s government.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio asked the Commerce Department for an update "on recommendations the US Department of Commerce is obligated to produce on how to protect Americans’ data in the wake of President Biden’s decision to rescind the ban on these harmful apps and their continued operation in the United States."
Last month, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters the administration is "very serious about protecting Americans' data" and was working with allies.
"That's really hard work," Raimondo said. "Doing some executive order that's meaningless on TikTok is not the way to do it."
TikTok has over 100 million users in the United States. Rubio asked what steps Commerce is "taking to ensure such personal information does not end up in Beijing’s possession."
A separate review of TikTok launched in late 2019 by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States remains active, a White House official said in June, declining to offer any details.
Biden's executive order revoked the WeChat and TikTok orders Trump issued in August 2020, along with another in January that targeted eight other communications and financial technology software applications.