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Risk of Foreign Software Applications

January 26, 2021
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In his last weeks in office President Trump issued an executive order "Addressing the Threat Posed by Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled by Chinese Companies". As described in a Locke Lord study, the threat is that these applications are accessing the personal and proprietary information of Americans, including the ability to trace locations of federal employees and contractors.

The order lists specific applications and prohibits transactions with persons that develop or control them. The Secretary of Commerce can add more applications to the list. India has banned 267 Chinese applications since last November.   

The Secretary has 45 days to present a report and recommendations. Needless to say, the Biden administration is now in charge and can alter the timeline, and revise or rescind the order. One possibility is to extend it to other hostile nations (no need to name names).

This order could have a big impact on the offshore data processing industry if companies are required to get export licenses. There may also be conflicts with privacy laws. It is unclear if the order would apply to  a U. S. person downloading an application and agreeing to its terms of use. Beware of using new applications before checking where they're coming from.

This is a question of security versus censorship.