The bill creates a formal process for government agencies to “deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, or otherwise mitigate” services they deem threatening, as long as they have access to “sensitive personal data” from more than 1 million US persons. That could potentially mean forcing American companies — including app store operators like Apple and Google — to cut off relations with TikTok or similar entities. The bill also provides the Commerce secretary with a handful of lesser tools to mitigate risky transactions, like the ability to force companies to divest services.
The Warner bill comes just a few days after the House Foreign Affairs Committee pushed through a separate measure to restrict access to TikTok. The Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act, or DATA Act, would direct President Joe Biden to sanction or ban TikTok if the administration determined it shared US user data with individuals associated with the Chinese government.
Unlike the House bill, Warner’s Senate measure would create a framework for evaluating and punishing foreign companies that pose a risk to US security, rather than simply targeting TikTok as a company.
“We shouldn’t let any company subject to the Chinese Communist Party’s dictates collect data on a third of our population – and while TikTok is just the latest example, it won’t be the last,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement Tuesday. “The federal government can’t continue to address new foreign technology from adversarial nations in a one-off manner; we need a strategic, enduring mechanism to protect Americans and our national security.”
Responding to the Warner bill, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter argued that the measure was unnecessary. “The Biden Administration does not need additional authority from Congress to address national security concerns about TikTok: it can approve the deal negotiated with CFIUS over two years that it has spent the last six months reviewing,” Oberwetter said in a statement to The Verge on Tuesday.