Sen. Tim Scott pushes bill that would require disclosure of apps' country of origin

Key Points
  • Republican senators led by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced legislation to require app stores to list apps' country of origin.
  • The proposed bill came days after Scott announced he's running for president.
  • Scott has previously called for the U.S. to cut ties between TikTok and China-based parent company ByteDance.
Likely Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) speaks at a campaign town hall meeting at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., May 8, 2023.
Brian Snyder | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is pushing for more transparency from social media applications amid privacy concerns about China-based apps like TikTok.

The Know Your App Act aims to increase consumer awareness of the ownership of apps by requiring stores like Google Play and the Apple App Store to identify each applications' country or origin. The bill, introduced Tuesday, comes days after Scott announced his bid for the presidency.

Under the bill, the Treasury and Commerce departments will be required to develop a list of adversarial governments with potentially undue control over application content moderation, algorithm design or data transfers, according to a statement released Tuesday. App stores would be charged to warn users of the risks of downloading foreign applications and provide a filtering method by country of origin.

Representatives for Google and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNBC.

The bill comes as lawmakers from both parties target apps made or backed by Chinese companies. Four out of 5 of the top most popular apps in March are of Chinese origin, according to The Wall Street Journal. E-commerce app Temu, which is still less than a year old, has been scrutinized about malware concerns.

Though not in the top five that month, China-founded, fast fashion e-tailer Shein has been accused of forced labor practices.

Scott, who is the ranking member of the Senate Banking committee, called for the U.S. to "sever" ties between TikTok, the third-most popular app in March, and its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance out of national security concerns. ByteDance adheres to Chinese national security laws allowing the government access to comprehensive business information under certain conditions.

"Americans should be able to make informed decisions about the online services they use in order to protect their data and security," Scott said of the Know Your App Act. "Requiring app stores to display an app's country of origin is a commonsense solution that can help them do just that." 

Users of social media apps face heightened security risks through privacy breaches and potential exploitation to which minors are especially susceptible, according to the bill.

"Parents shouldn't fear that their family's online privacy and security could be compromised when unknowingly using an app owned by a foreign adversary," Scott said in a statement released Tuesday.

Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and James Lankford, R-Okla., also sponsored the bill.

The bill will prohibit foreign adversaries from exploiting certain tools to collect Americans' private data "to gain advantage over the United States," Wicker said in a statement.

"The Know Your App Act would bring much-needed transparency to app stores, empowering Americans to safeguard their families from exploitation," he added.