On January 5, 2021, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order declaring that beginning on February 19, 2021, “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with persons that develop or control the following Chinese connected software applications, or with their subsidiaries, … : Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office” will be prohibited. In addition to having to identify the transactions and persons that develop or control these Chinese apps by February 19, the Secretary of Commerce must also provide a report making recommendations “to prevent the sale or transfer of United States user data to, or access of such data by, foreign adversaries, including through the establishment of regulations and policies to identify, control, and license the export of such data.”
The Executive Order states that by accessing personal electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, these Chinese apps “access and capture vast swaths of information from users, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information.” President Trump stated that such data collection could provide China (PRC) with access to U.S. citizens’ sensitive personal and proprietary information. The president added, “The continuing activity of the PRC … 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.” President Trump took similar action earlier in 2020 against social media apps, TikTok and WeChat. See Updates of August 7, 2020 and October 5, 2020.
This latest action against Chinese software and communication company originates from President Trump’s May 15, 2019 Executive Order on “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain,” that declared a national emergency as to the threats against information and communications technology and services in the United States. It delegated authority to the Secretary of Commerce to prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of U.S. persons. See Update of May 16, 2019 for additional details.