WASHINGTON—In response to legislation introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) to ban TikTok in the United States, the Center for Data Innovation issued the following statement from Policy Analyst Gillian Diebold:
Blanket bans on apps based on a company’s foreign ownership will only hurt U.S. businesses in the long run because countries could seek to block U.S. online services over similar national security concerns. Yes, the Chinese government’s potential interference is a real threat. But restricting TikTok in the United States would have little impact on national security or American online privacy and safety. While some policymakers are eager to confront China, focusing on small issues like one social media app are a distraction from more important issues like forced tech transfer.
To safeguard Americans online, including protecting them from threats from the CCP, policymakers should pursue more promising solutions that address the underlying risks. For example, to address data concerns, lawmakers should prioritize passing federal privacy legislation to protect consumer data that would explicitly require companies to disclose who they share data with and hold them accountable for those statements. Moreover, legislation should create transparency requirements so social media companies must disclose information about government requests for consumer data or attempts by governments to manipulate or censor content. And to address concerns about access to sensitive communications, policymakers should encourage more social media platforms to use end-to-end encryption for all direct messages to keep consumer data out of the hands of third parties.
Finally, legislation at this stage would be premature given that the Biden administration is actively working with TikTok to establish practices to address national security concerns. Rather than preempt these efforts, Congress should allow the administration to cross the finish line on this deal and evaluate the results.
Rather than banning TikTok on the basis of its links to China, policymakers should instead focus on raising the bar for the privacy and security practices of all online services, regardless of where they’re based.