Scott, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Increase Transparency, Protect Children Online

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Know Your App Act to increase transparency and provide parents with information to protect their children online in making informed decisions. The bill would require online app stores to display the country where apps are developed and owned.

“Americans should be able to make informed decisions about the online services they use in order to protect their data and security. Requiring app stores to display an app’s country of origin is a common-sense solution that can help them do just that,” said Ranking Member Scott. “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.”

“Our adversaries will exploit every available tool, including popular apps that gather huge amounts of data on Americans, to gain an advantage over the United States,” said Senator Wicker. “It is crucial for users to take steps to limit their exposure and be made aware of the risks associated with using foreign-controlled apps. The Know Your App Act would bring much-needed transparency to app stores, empowering Americans to safeguard their families from exploitation.”

“Seeing ‘Made in China’ on nearly any product nowadays is frustrating to Oklahomans trying their best not to prop up the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government with their hard-earned money,” said Senator Lankford. “We already see the ways the TikTok app is a dangerous extension of the CCP that is collecting every user’s personal data and all of their contacts. I want the ‘Made in China’ label and labels for any other countries where apps like TikTok originate to be clearly marked when and where they are downloaded. Americans should remain free to buy items from wherever they want, but the least Big Tech can do is label where Americans’ money is going when they download in the app store.”

Additionally, several national organizations have voiced support for the Know Your App Act:

Ryan Walker, Vice President of Government Relations, Heritage Action: “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other adversarial nations view Americans’ personal data as a strategic resource, and they will utilize whatever means necessary to get their hands on it. This includes forcing companies under their jurisdiction to turn this data over if asked, something that malign actors like TikTok-owner ByteDance, is more than happy to do. Senator Tim Scott’s “Know Your App Act” is a serious first step towards protecting Americans’ data by requiring online app stores to tell users where the developers and owners of foreign apps are based and giving them tools to avoid downloading apps from adversarial countries, including China. The Senate should quickly pass this bill, to give consumers the information they need to make an informed choice.”

Michael Stumo, CEO, Coalition for a Prosperous America: “Americans deserve to know when they are downloading apps and purchasing goods from hostile, adversarial nations like China. CPA has long-called for country of origin labeling for goods sold online, and it is common sense to provide Americans with the same information for apps they download.”

Hadley Heath Manning, Vice President for Policy, Independent Women’s Voice: “Independent Women’s Voice, which fights to enhance people’s freedom, opportunities, and well-being, is proud to support the Know Your App Act, introduced by Senator Tim Scott…The reality is that when it comes to the use of online applications and platforms, consumers – and our data – often become the product. We deserve to know who controls the applications we use and to whom they are accountable. Importantly, the bill also gives consumers the option to filter out applications from the list of identified countries so they can protect themselves, and their loved ones, against potential threats. This approach should draw broad support; it offers application users (and parents) information, but still allows them to make their own choices about which apps to download and use. This is common sense.”

Clare Morell, Senior Policy Analyst at The Ethics and Public Policy Center: “Senator Scott’s “Know Your App Act” is a necessary step to provide greater transparency in mobile app stores to U.S. consumers so they can make more-informed decisions about the apps they download. The bill would critically help inform consumers of the country of origin for each app, and have specific warnings for apps that are from countries with adversarial governments to the United States (as designated by the Treasury and Commerce Departments). The “Know Your App Act” would play an important role in preventing the threats to Americans and our children posed by foreign applications, like TikTok and beyond.”

As of March, four of the five most popular apps in the U.S. were developed in China. This is particularly concerning given that China’s national security laws provide a pathway for the Chinese Communist Party to compel application developers to control an application’s content or user data. 

The Know Your App Act responds to this risk by requiring online app stores to prominently display the country where apps are developed and owned, allowing users to make informed decisions about the applications they access. The bill also requires the U.S. Department of Treasury and U.S. Department of Commerce to produce a list of adversarial governments that may have undue control over application content moderation, algorithm design, or user data transfers. App stores would be required to provide users the ability to filter out applications from the identified adversarial countries and warn users about the risk of downloading one of the foreign applications on these lists. If a developer fails to provide sufficient information to the app store about its country affiliation, the app store would be required to issue multiple warnings over a designated period. If the developer still refused to comply, the app store would be required to remove the app from its store.

Read full text of the bill here.