Republican Senator Josh Hawley thinks Big Tech is “totally untrustworthy” as it hides deep connections with China. He invited Apple and TikTok to a congressional hearing scheduled for March 4, but neither of the two want to participate.
TikTok is still in hot water due to its suspected ties with the Chinese government, but this is now also true of Apple. According to a report from The Washington Post, Senator Josh Hawley has asked the two companies to participate in a hearing that will take place in March and tackle the implications of Big Tech’s reliance on China.
Hawley has been openly critical of tech companies and their questionable practices, ranging from loot boxes in games, to abusing their dominant positions in one market to gain an advantage in another, and is a huge proponent of a bill that would have companies disclose the value of user data in concrete terms.
Both Apple and TikTok declined Hawley’s request to have a seat at the public discussion table, which is the same reaction they had in November 2019 when a similar hearing took place. Hawley noted at the time that Apple’s decision to transfer Chinese users’ iCloud data to a state-run company was a sign that customers’ security isn’t high on the priority list at Cupertino.
ByteDance-owned TikTok said it would send a representative later this year to discuss lawmakers’ concerns, but didn’t give any specific details.
US regulators are concerned that ByteDance is helping Chinese spying efforts, so the company has been gradually separating TikTok from its Chinese operations. This seems to be mostly a reaction to a new Chinese cybersecurity law that gives the local government unprecedented power to dictate how companies handle data with respect to cryptographic and privacy practices, as well as the ability to seize that data without explanation.
Apple is hugely dependent on China for iPhone revenue growth, and has shown it is quick to respond to app takedown requests from the local government.
This has raised the suspicion level to new heights, with Hawley noting that “we’re accustomed in hearings like this one to hearing about Apple as a good corporate citizen, […] but Apple’s business model and business practices are increasingly entangled with China, a fact they would rather we think not too much about.”