TikTok, National Security Threats the Focus of Hawley’s ‘Dangerous Partners: Big Tech and Beijing’ Hearing

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

In today’s “Dangerous Partners: Big Tech & Beijing” hearing, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, announced he would introduce legislation to ban all federal employees from the use of TikTok on government devices.

“TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that includes Chinese Communist Party members in leadership, and it is requires by Chinese law to share user data with Beijing. TikTok has admitted that it has sent user data to China. To put it bluntly, this is a major security risk for the American people. . . This legislation is a necessary step to protect the security of the United States and the data security of every American.”

Senator Hawley

In the hearing, law enforcement and policy experts shed light onto the national security threats that companies like TikTok and Apple pose through their ties to Beijing. Both companies declined his invitation – just as they did for the Subcommittee’s hearing in November.

In the hearing today, Mr. Derek Scissors Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute, said, “We have [American companies saying] ‘we can’t innovate nearly as well without China,’ a Chinese government that really wants to acquire any innovation it can, and that’s—to me—why you don’t have companies that want to come testify. Because they’re telling you, ‘we are transferring technology to China because we need China to innovate and they want the tech.'”

Since the his first committee hearing as chair last year, the State Department, the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, and TSA have banned TikTok on federal government devices due to cybersecurity concerns and possible spying by the Chinese government.

Mr. Adam Hickey Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ National Security Division said, “In terms of leverage, I’m concerned about a company that does business here, but is ultimately accountable to a parent company in China and susceptible to leverage by the Chinese government. And so I think those who do business with those who do business with those companies may be exposing themselves to an actor who may be co-opted.”

At the end of year, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Senator Hawley that the FBI is“concerned” with companies like Apple who store their data in China because “Chinese law essentially compels Chinese companies and typically compels U.S. companies that are operating in China to have relationships with different kinds of Chinese companies to provide whatever information the government wants whenever it wants.”

The full hearing is available here.