Bipartisan Bill Would Prevent TikTok And Others From Sending Data To China

Lawmakers this week introduced a bipartisan bill that aims to prevent TikTok, data brokers and other companies from sending some types of personal data to “malign foreign actors,” such as China.

The Protecting Americans’ Data from Foreign Surveillance Act of 2023, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), would task the Secretary of Commerce with determining the kinds of personal data that could harm national security, and also which countries should be presumptively blocked from receiving that data.

The legislation aims “to turn off the tap of Americans' data being sold to unfriendly nations and stop TikTok from sending Americans’ personal information to China,” Wyden said Wednesday in a Twitter post.



The bill contains language stating that “accelerating technological trends have made sensitive personal data an especially valuable input” to foreign adversaries, and that it is essential “to ensure that the United States Government makes every effort to prevent sensitive personal data from falling into the hands of malign foreign actors.”

Senate co-sponsors include Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

The proposed law directs the Commerce Secretary to decide which countries to put on a block list by examining their history of “hostile foreign intelligence,” as well as their privacy controls, and whether their governments can force people in the country to disclose personal data.

The ban on exporting data wouldn't apply to material encrypted with technology approved by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The bill also has an exemption for journalism.

The proposed law comes as the Chinese-owned TikTok continues to face scrutiny over its data practices, including the extent to which Chinese authorities may be able to access users' data. Last month, a former employee of TikTok parent ByteDance alleged that the Chinese government obtained access to information about app users. ByteDance denied those claims.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told Congress earlier this year that the company doesn't store U.S. users' data on servers located in China. He also said the company intends to store all data about U.S. users on servers owned by Oracle.

A company spokesperson said Thursday that TikTok is "well underway in cutting off access to protected U.S. user data to any employee -- wherever they are."

Last year, concerns about foreign adversaries' access to data spurred Rubio and two other lawmakers -- Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois) -- to propose a bill that would block transactions in the U.S. by TikTok and other apps under the control of China, Russia and several other countries.

In March, a House committee advanced a different bill that would empower President Joe Biden to ban the app.

The state of Montana recently enacted a bill that bans use of the app in the state. TikTok and users have filed separate lawsuits challenging that bill.

Wyden said last year that banning TikTok wouldn't necessarily stop data flows to China, because data brokers could still obtain the information and send it abroad.

“I'm troubled by TikTok,” he said at a Punchbowl News event. “I just want people to understand that if you ban TikTok, that doesn't mean people's personal data is safe from China.”

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