President Donald Trump has issued an executive order to block eight Chinese apps from accessing and capturing the user data of American citizens. The apps included in this executive order are Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office.
According to Reuters: “Alipay was downloaded from Apple’s U.S. app store and Google Play 207,000 times in 2020, while image scanning app CamScanner and office suite app WPS Office were downloaded 4.4 million and 563,000 times respectively, according to research firm SensorTower.”
“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.
“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,” according to the executive order (EO) issued on Jan. 05, Tuesday.
The EO seeks to add to the previous executive order 13873, “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain,” signed on May 15, 2019, which required the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify hardware, software and other related services that may threaten national security, economic integrity, and the public safety of the country.
The president made references to earlier intrusions and massive American data theft by the Chinese
- Security clearance records from the Office of Personnel Management were hacked in 2014 resulting in data theft from 21 million people.
- Anthem, the health insurance provider, was hacked in 2015 resulting in the Chinese gaining access to the personal data of 78 million U.S. citizens.
- In 2017, a Chinese military-sponsored attack resulted in compromising individual information for half of the total American population.
President Trump referenced the Indian government’s ban of more than 200 Chinese apps over the course of 2020. According to India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the apps “engaged in activities which [are] prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of the state, and public order.”
The executive order is expected to be enforced 45 days from when it’s issued, and requires the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, to “identify and take relevant action” against apps and develop “a program to control the export of exploitable United States user data to foreign adversaries.” Secretary Ross said in a statement that his department has begun carrying out the instructions in the EO.