Trump Sanctions Chinese Apps Over Security Concerns

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January 6, 2021

President Donald Trump issued a new round of sanctions Tuesday night on eight Chinese apps over data security concerns.

The software controlled by several Chinese companies allowed for the collection of sensitive personal information from Americans, potentially allowing Chinese Communist Party officials to build dossiers on federal employees, according to a press release from the White House. Sanctions—which the Trump administration issued by executive order—will aim to end data collection by prohibiting transactions on targeted apps.

"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 White House statement reads. "At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by these Chinese connected software applications."

Applications targeted by the new sanctions include Alipay, an app associated with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, and Tencent QQ, a messaging app developed by Chinese tech giant Tencent. The ban on transactions through the applications will go into effect 45 days after the announcement of the order.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien said the move puts Beijing on notice for its malign activities in cyberspace.

"This executive order tasks the Secretary of Commerce to identify prohibited transactions involving eight Chinese software applications, including payment services; directs the Secretary of Commerce to identify and take appropriate action against other software applications; and develops a program to control the export of exploitable United States user data to foreign adversaries," O’Brien said. "President Trump continues to prioritize the safety and security of the United States homeland and the American people."

State Department officials are engaged in a long-term effort to wean allies off of Chinese technology through the Clean Network initiative. In the last month alone, Washington has blacklisted dozens of companies with ties to the Chinese military.