US Senator Josh Hawley has proposed new legislation which would impose data localisation requirements on foreign technology companies.
The legislation, known as the National Security and Personal Data Protection Act, is targeted primarily at China, though it might not be surprising for this concept to be extended elsewhere. As part of the legislation, Chinese app developers who offer services in the US would not be allowed to store data in China. US companies would also be banned from storing data on US citizens in the country.
“Current law makes it far too easy for hostile foreign governments like China to access Americans’ sensitive data,” said Hawley, one of the more prominent critics of Big Tech in Congress.
“Chinese companies with vast amounts of personal data on Americans are required by Chinese law to provide that data to Chinese intelligence services. If your child uses TikTok, there’s a chance the Chinese Communist Party knows where they are, what they look like, what their voices sound like, and what they’re watching. That’s a feature TikTok doesn’t advertise.”
While such a move should have been expected from Harley, concerns over the aggressive success of TikTok have been raised by politicians in recent memory, it remains to be seen whether the sense of irony will be appreciated.
Back in June, rumours circulated regarding US posturing. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly suggested the number of visas afforded to India would be limited unless the government dropped data localisation requirements on US firms. Data protection and privacy issues are perhaps at the heart of these regulation and legislation, however there is also the economic bonus of data centre investments.
This is perhaps an aspect of the legislation which would appeal to US citizens and the White House. President Trump does thoroughly enjoy shouting and screaming about the economic value his administration is bringing to the country.
In the current climate where the US and Chinese governments are not on friendly terms, this is legislation which might be passed quickly. US politicians are fearful of Chinese intelligence agencies, and many would quickly jump on the opportunity to kill any links to China.