EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Tim Scott is rolling out legislation that would require app stores to display the country where apps are developed and owned before users download them amid worries some of the most popular apps in America were developed in China.
Scott, R-S.C., the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, is introducing the “Know Your App Act.” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., are original co-sponsors for the bill.
The bill is aimed at protecting national security and giving parents the information they need to protect their children and help them make “informed decisions.”
“Americans should be able to make informed decisions about the online services they use in order to protect their data and security,” Scott told Fox News Digital. “Requiring app stores to display an app’s country of origin is a common-sense solution that can help them do just that.”
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Scott, who announced his 2024 presidential bid last week, said parents “shouldn’t fear that their family’s online privacy and security could be compromised when unknowingly using an app owned by a foreign adversary.”
The bill would require the Treasury Department and the Department of Commerce to produce a list of adversarial governments that may have undue control over application content moderation, algorithm design or user data transfers.
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Under the bill, app stores would be required to provide users the ability to filter out applications from these adversarial countries and warn users about the risk of downloading one of the foreign apps on the list.
If an app developer failed to provide sufficient information to the app store about its country affiliation, the app store would be required to issue multiple warnings over a designated period. If the developer still refused to comply, the app store would be required to remove the app from its store.
The rollout of the bill comes amid findings that, as of March of this year, four of the five most popular apps in the United States were developed in China. Those apps were Temu, CapCut, TikTok and Shein.
Scott said this is “particularly concerning” because China’s national security laws provide a pathway for the Chinese Communist Party to compel application developers to control an application’s content or user data.
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China’s national intelligence law of 2017 compels businesses registered in China, or with operations in China, to turn over information and data to Chinese intelligence agencies. U.S. officials and lawmakers have warned that the Chinese Communist Party could compel the company to turn over American users’ data or expose them to propaganda.
Supporters of the bill say people need more information so they can opt out of supporting these apps.
“Our adversaries will exploit every available tool, including popular apps that gather huge amounts of data on Americans, to gain an advantage over the United States,” Wicker told Fox News Digital. “It is crucial for users to take steps to limit their exposure and be made aware of the risks associated with using foreign-controlled apps.”
Wicker added that the legislation would bring “much-needed transparency to app stores, empowering Americans to safeguard their families from exploitation.”
“Seeing ‘Made in China’ on nearly any product nowadays is frustrating to Oklahomans trying their best not to prop up the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government with their hard-earned money,” Lankford told Fox News Digital, adding TikTok is a “dangerous extension of the CCP.”
“I want the ‘Made in China’ label and labels for any other countries where apps like TikTok originate to be clearly marked when and where they are downloaded,” Lankford said. “Americans should remain free to buy items from wherever they want, but the least Big Tech can do is label where Americans’ money is going when they download in the app store.”
TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is based in Beijing, is facing an ongoing security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group that evaluates threats to U.S. national security posed by foreign investments or transactions.
CFIUS has been looking into TikTok since 2019. In 2020, it unanimously recommended that ByteDance divest from TikTok’s U.S. operations, and it has been threatening to ban TikTok until that happens.
TikTok has created “Project Texas,” an initiative dedicated to addressing concerns about U.S. national security. The initiative creates a stand-alone version of the TikTok platform for the United States isolated in servers in Oracle’s U.S. cloud environment. It was developed with CFIUS and cost the company approximately $1.5 billion to implement.
President Biden signed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill last year that included a measure to ban TikTok from federal government devices.
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TikTok has also been banned for use on state-owned electronic devices in more than a dozen states, both Republican- and Democrat-led.
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a bill in March that would restrict technology — including software, hardware and social media platforms, such as TikTok — developed in adversarial nations like China and Russia from being available to users in the U.S. due to the national security risks.