On Monday, November 18, 2019 Josh Hawley unveiled legislation that seeks to protect Americans’ online data from getting into the hands of China and other countries that pose national security threats to U.S. interests.
Axios reports that “Hawley’s bill takes aim Apple and TikTok by prohibiting American companies from storing user data or encryption keys in China, and preventing Chinese companies from collecting more information on American users than necessary to provide service here.”
The Missouri Senator’s introduction of the National Security and Personal Data Protection Act comes after his repeated concerns about TikTok’s and Apple’s ties to China. He recently participated in a hearing earlier this month where he voiced concerns before the Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee regarding the two companies’ relationship to China.
This proposal comes during a time when the Trump administration is carrying out a tariff war with China in order to negotiate a trade deal that is more favorable to America. Similarly, this bill is being put forward when social media companies are under the microscope for the privacy violations, alleged political bias, and accusations of behaving as de facto monopolies.
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and the bill Hawley is championing bans the transfer of user data to China, and limits the collection of data and what can TikTok can do with the information.
Although TikTok claims that it stores American users’ data in the U.S., Hawley believes that the Chinese government could pressure the company to turn over Americans’ user data.
In a statement, Hawley said “If your child uses TikTok, there’s a chance the Chinese Communist Party knows where they are, what they look like, what their voices sound like, and what they’re watching.”
When dealing with Apple, Hawley’s legislation would keep American companies from transferring user data or encryption keys to China. Additionally, this bill would prohibit American companies from storing data in China.
Hawley claimed, “Chinese law allows the Communist Party to seize data from American companies operating in China whenever it wants, for whatever reason it wants.”
After spending nearly two decades engaging in protracted conflicts in the Middle East, the U.S. has ignored a major geopolitical threat in the Far East.
Since its disastrous totalitarian communist experience of the 1960s, China has implemented reforms that gave its economy breathing room, while also re-branding itself in order to become an attractive trading partners for Western countries.
Nevertheless, it remains authoritarian and adversarial to American interests.
One of the largest challenges of the 21st century will be the containment of China’s influence abroad.
Josh Hawley seems to be one of the few elected officials who is willing to embrace this challenge.
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