WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A new bill from a fierce critic of big tech aims to prevent U.S. businesses from sharing Americans’ user data with foreign governments like China or Russia.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., comes on the heels of a report showing that Chinese-owned video app TikTok, which is popular among teens, could be making millions of its American users’ information accessible to Beijing.
Skeptical of the Chinese and Russian governments, Hawley said it’s an issue of national security to ensure those countries don’t have uncontrolled access to data he says could be weaponized.
“You talk about a national security risk, you talk about a privacy risk for every single American, that’s it,” he said. “Chinese law requires Chinese companies — requires them — to share information with the Communist Party and the Chinese military.”
He said companies like TikTok and Apple, which stores data in China, could be putting American data at risk. He invited those companies to appear before Congress earlier this month, but they didn’t show. Hawley said the invitation remains open.
His bill would ban them and all U.S. companies from storing data abroad.
“If you do business in this country, you cannot share Americans’ personal information with China or with Russia or with other country the State Department deems a country of concern,” he explained.
The U.S. Department of Treasury and U.S. military are investigating TikTok’s data collection practices, though the company contends it has never shared American user data with the Chinese government.
“It’s hard to see this as a national security issue,” said Bill Reinsch, a trade expert with the Center for Strategic International Studies, saying Hawley’s concern should be broader. “If you’re going to be concerned about TikTok, you should be concerned about Facebook, you should be concerned about Amazon.”
Two other Republican senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, are cosponsoring Hawley’s plan. No hearings have been scheduled.