GOP lawmaker introduces bill to put national security warnings on TikTok, FaceApp

Greg Nash

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would send consumers warnings before they download applications developed in countries considered national security risks.

If passed, the bill would mean that users would be alerted about alleged risks of downloading the hugely popular short-form video platform TikTok, which is linked to Chinese company ByteDance.

Users would also be notified if trying to download FaceApp, a product with ties to Russia that saw significant use last summer.

“Some phone apps are fun and useful, others are counterintelligence threats,” Banks said in a statement.

“Americans should know which is which before they hit the download button. Parents and consumers have a right to a warning that by downloading some apps like Russia’s FaceApp or China’s TikTok, their data may be used against the United States by an adversarial or enemy regime.”

In addition to Russia and China, apps from Venezuela, Syria, Sudan, Iran and North Korea would have warnings attached to them.

No co-sponsors were announced for the legislation on Tuesday, and similar bills aimed at apps from foreign adversaries have seen little success.

Scrutiny on TikTok has risen in lockstep with its skyrocketing popularity — it has been downloaded well over 100 million times in the U.S. 

It has especially come from China hawks, who point to a 2017 Chinese law that requires Chinese companies to comply with data requests for state intelligence work. 

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced legislation last month that would outright ban federal employees from using TikTok on government devices.

TikTok has continually rebuffed claims from lawmakers that the company presents a security risk, and there is no public evidence to suggest that the Chinese government has any access to the data of U.S. users.

The company has also insisted that it does not cooperate with the Chinese government, pointing out that it stores data on Americans in the U.S. with a backup in Singapore.

“While we think the concerns about TikTok are unfounded, we understand them and are continuing to further strengthen our safeguards while increasing our dialogue with lawmakers to help explain our policies,” a spokesperson for TikTok told The Hill.

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