Amid the recent rush at the Federal and state levels to ban or curtail use of the China-based TikTok social media app, at least one U.S. senator says that those actions would not be sufficient to prevent China interests from accessing personal data on United States citizens.

Speaking at a Punchbowl News event today, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., did not oppose proposed TikTok bans, but said more targeted legislation is needed to prevent the flow of U.S. citizen data to China and the Chinese government.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., debuted legislation in the Senate today to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S., citing the risk that TikTok is being used to “spy” on Americans because the app’s owner, ByteDance, is required by Chinese law to make the app available to the Chinese government.

The senator’s bill – the Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) aims to protect U.S. citizens by “blocking and prohibiting all transactions from any social media company in, or under the influence of, China, Russia, and several other foreign countries of concern,” Sen. Rubio’s office said.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.

“The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok,” Sen. Rubio said today.

“This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day,” he said. “We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China.”

During his remarks today, Sen. Wyden said, “I just want people to understand, if you banned TikTok, that doesn’t mean people’s personal data is safe from China.”

“These sleazy data brokers go and they’ll get people’s data, they leech it up, and then off it goes,” the senator continued.

While he doesn’t believe a TikTok bank will solve data privacy issues, Sen. Wyden said he does believe the Chinese government poses serious cybersecurity issues that need to be addressed when it comes to Americans’ personal data.

To that end, Sen. Wyden said he has worked with Sen. Rubio on legislation that would block the sale of personal data to China and elsewhere.  Sen. Rubio “and I have authored legislation … to restrict people’s personal data in America being shipped there,” Sen. Wyden said.

“I mean, the question is, are we going to make it tougher to ship Americans personal data to China? And by the way… I’m going after these data brokers next year. These are some of the sleaziest characters,” Sen. Wyden said.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.