in the future, it could be a new mobile game or an algorithm that helps students study at home. It could be the latest video card or an exercise bike or a program that matches families with puppies. Fewer and fewer aspects of life are untouched by technology, and that could be just about anything. It is now TikTok with billions of users worldwide.

US Senator Mark Warner wants the United States to be armed with the ability to take swift action against tech companies suspected of colluding with foreign governments and spies, effectively removing their products from shelves and app stores if the threat they pose becomes too great. to ignore. His new bill, the Restrictions Act, puts that responsibility on the US Commerce Secretary, giving his department the authority to review and, under certain conditions, ban technologies identified by US intelligence as a credible threat to US national security. While the owners and manufacturers of the technology will have every right to challenge any outcome in court if the Restriction Act becomes law, it is nonetheless a sweeping power that has limitless implications for America’s competitors abroad.

The idea that such decisions could be hugely unpopular at home or illicit concerns from global allies was not lost on Warner. Without sufficient transparency in the process, government actions can lead to chaos. Warner says the intelligence community must be held accountable for the decisions it influences, providing not just Americans but the world with the information it needs to understand how and why this new power is being used. He knows that he may not always have the freedom to do so.

TikTok’s ties to China have more or less spooked authorities in several countries, with numerous officials in the US alone claiming to have spoken directly with whistleblowers who spoke about the misuse of personal data. The UK today joined several other countries, including the US, in banning the app from all government devices.

The British, like their American, Belgian and Canadian counterparts, fear the app could offer Beijing’s intelligence services the ability to track the movements of key officials and intercept sensitive information they hold. Other countries already have laws to achieve what Warner is trying to do. For example, in 2020, India’s Ministry of Electronics banned TikTok completely, citing the government’s need to ensure “the security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace”.

The future of the Cap Act is uncertain, but it has garnered significant bipartisan support in Congress, and there is little reason for American tech giants to stand in the way. To learn more about Warner’s stance on security, invasive technology and privacy issues that hit closer to home, WIRED spoke with the Virginia Democrat this week. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

WIRED: Tell us about the Statute of Limitations and its purpose.

Mark Warner: Over the past few years, we have faced challenges with foreign technology. Initially, it was Kaspersky, a Russian software company, then Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications provider, and most recently, the discussion was about the Chinese-owned social network TikTok. We seem to have a foreign technology approach, and I think what we need instead is a comprehensive rules-based approach that recognizes that national security is no longer just about tanks and guns, but is really about technology and technology. competition. In the case of Kaspersky, it was software constantly updated from Moscow, and with Huawei, it was a way for the Communist Party in China to eavesdrop. In the case of TikTok, it’s the huge amounts of data being collected that could potentially end up in China or, given the fact that a hundred million Americans use it a day for an average of 90 minutes a day, it could be a huge propaganda tool. Let me be clear: because China changed its legislation in 2016 to ensure that, at the end of the day, the ultimate master of every company is the Chinese Communist Party. It’s not about shareholders, not about employees, definitely not about customers. And this is a national security risk.

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