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Bipartisan Senators Revive Bill to Protect American Data, Target TikTok's Exports to China

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

A legislative proposal aimed at preventing Chinese social media giant TikTok from transferring user data to China has been re-proposed by a bipartisan group of senators.


The proposed bill, named the "Protecting Americans’ Data From Foreign Surveillance Act of 2023", was initially introduced in 2022 and has now been updated with various new provisions. These additions include tasks for the Commerce secretary and other agencies to discern types of personal data whose export could pose a threat to U.S. national security.


The bill tasks the Commerce secretary with developing a list of 'low-risk' countries, where data sharing is considered safe, and a 'high-risk' list where data transfer, particularly of sensitive nature, would be prohibited. Additionally, the bill seeks to establish a licensing system for data exports to countries that are not on either list.


The revised bill will also regulate any personal data exports by data brokers and firms such as TikTok, particularly towards restricted foreign governments, parent companies in restricted foreign countries, and individuals appearing on the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List.


Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) are the primary sponsors of the bill, with support from six other bipartisan legislators.


In a statement, Senator Wyden explained that copious amounts of Americans' sensitive information are currently available for purchase to virtually anyone, including buyers in China and Russia. He emphasized that the bipartisan bill aims to cut off the data supply to hostile nations, prevent TikTok from exporting American users' personal data to China, and promote relationships with nations upholding robust privacy protections.


This move follows the recent bans or proposed bans of TikTok on government devices by multiple state governments and Congress, motivated by national security concerns tied to TikTok's Chinese ownership, ByteDance.


Last month, Montana became the first U.S. state to ban TikTok due to data privacy concerns, with Governor Greg Gianforte (R) signing the necessary legislation.


The U.S. relationship with TikTok has been strained, marked by the unsuccessful attempt by the Trump administration to ban the platform in 2020. More recently, the Biden administration asked ByteDance to divest its stakes in the company, warning of a potential ban of the social media platform in the U.S.

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