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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday on ensuring the security of American user data in regard to foreign-owned apps such as TikTok, revoking and replacing three Trump-era executive orders to impose a more structured "criteria-based decision framework" for potential bans.

Driving the news: It's the latest in a series of China-related steps Biden is taking ahead of his first overseas trip to Europe, where curtailing Beijing's abuses will be a top agenda item in meetings with G7 and NATO leaders.

Details: The EO replaces three previous Trump-era EOs and directs the Department of Commerce to "instead evaluate foreign adversary connected software applications" under new rules.

  • The EO outlines criteria for determining what foreign-connected apps may pose an "unacceptable risk" to U.S. national security.
  • These include transactions involving apps owned or controlled by "persons that support foreign adversary military or intelligence activities, involved in malicious cyber activities ... or collect sensitive data," according to a White House fact sheet.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is continuing to outline how its tough-on-China approach will differ from Trump's, implementing aggressive policies that officials say are more aligned with American values.

  • Trump's previous executive orders essentially sought to ban popular video-sharing app TikTok and messaging app WeChat from the U.S.
  • The bans were temporarily blocked in court because the national security concerns outlined by the Trump administration were too hypothetical or vague.

Between the lines: The Biden administration is seeking to develop a better process for identifying and documenting national security concerns so that potential bans on data transfers can withstand court challenges.

What they're saying: On a call with reporters, a senior administration official said the EO is meant to protect sensitive American data from collection and utilization by foreign adversaries, including China.

  • A review of the ownership structure of TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, remains ongoing at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the official said, declining to share more details.
  • The EO is an important part of the administration's foreign policy strategy with China and part of its agenda to work with international partners, the official said.
  • The official said the White House wants to protect American user data while promoting principles of a free and open internet that safeguard human rights and the digital economy.

The bottom line: The Biden administration wants to be tough on China, but is doing so in its own way.

Go deeper

By the numbers: Presidential foreign travel

Expand chart
Data: U.S. State Department Office of the Historian; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

President Biden leaves for the United Kingdom on Wednesday, kicking off his first foreign trip as president.

By the numbers: Presidents have made more stops in foreign nations in most recent administrations, though they dropped way off when Donald Trump was in office.

Jun 8, 2021 - World

Biden likely to appoint Middle East envoy, Israeli foreign minister says

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (R) with Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Photo: Alex Brandon/Pool/AFP via Getty

Outgoing Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a farewell briefing to reporters on Tuesday that the Biden administration is likely to appoint a Middle East envoy who will focus on strengthening the normalization agreements between Israel and the Arab world and will push for more.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has said it plans to build on the Trump-brokered agreements, but hasn't taken any action so far. Ashkenazi said senior Biden administration officials told him they were waiting for a new government to be formed in Israel before starting to push the normalization issue.

Updated Jun 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's DOJ defends Trump in E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit

Combination images of former President Trump and E. Jean Carroll. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images/Eva Deitch for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden's Department of Justice indicated in a court filing Monday night that it's continuing with the DOJ's defense of former President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

Why it matters: When President Biden was a presidential candidate last year, he criticized the DOJ's highly unusual move to intervene and replace Trump's private lawyers with attorneys from the department, per the New York Times.