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Sen. Josh Hawley Excoriates Absent Apple and TikTok Executives at Another Hearing Bashing Big Tech

David Jelke

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Screenshot of Sen. Hawley recognizing the empty chair for TikTok

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2020 — “The American public deserves to know” about ethically questionable business practices conducted by Apple and TikTok, asserted Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, at a Wednesday Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on big tech and China.

Apple and TikTok representatives were notably absent at the Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearing in fact titled, “Dangerous Partners: Big Tech and Beijing.”

TikTok, a social media app based in China, is among the first global social media sensations originating from China. It was the most downloaded app of 2019.

But to Americans, the company has been embroiled in scandal for allegedly siphoning data such as search history, keystrokes, and even facial data from its American users. And, of course, it has Chinese board members, including high-ranking members of the Chinese Communist Party.

But TikTok wasn’t the only Silicon Valley-Chinese crossover company in the crosshairs of Congress.

Apple has been criticized by Congress for its willingness to comply with Chinese laws, and an alleged complicity in human rights violations of Chinese workers.

“Come to this hearing room, take an oath like these other witnesses have done, and testify,” challenged Hawley. “Tell us about what you’re doing in China, tell us about your relationship with Beijing. Tell us about the kind of labor in Apple’s case, and maybe TikTok’s, that you rely upon.”

Hawley used the opportunity to announce new legislation that would prohibit all federal workers from using TikTok on any federal device. “This is a necessary step to protect the security of the United States, and the data security of every American,” said Hawley.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., encouraged security experts present at the hearing to make the public aware of the data threats to which the it consents when consumers agree to the terms and conditions of apps like TikTok – which Whitehouse referred to once in his questioning as “Tic-tac.”

Whitehouse likened proposals to monitor TikTok more closely to the warning label on pack of cigarettes and the consumer tag on a mattress.

“It seems to me that there is a coalition of the willing” among several Western countries to more closely surveil foreign apps and flag suspect data agreements, said Whitehouse.

Hawley ended the panel by goading Apple and TikTok, the absentee panelists. Turning to fellow committee member Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois: “You know, we ought to make it a tradition in this hearing room. We’ll just provide an open chair to Apple and TikTok. You have relevant testimony to give.”

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