- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A top Democrat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee wants Apple and Google to force app developers to provide information on data privacy to their users, amid concerns raised by federal officials that China and Russia pose a national security risk through mobile applications.

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, chairman of the subcommittee on national security within House Oversight, wrote to Apple and Google’s CEOs to demand that they obtain information about where users’ data is stored from app developers and that Apple and Google make users aware of such information prior to users’ installing the apps on their devices.

Mr. Lynch said the FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence have said mobile applications with ties to foreign adversaries pose a risk to American national security, which prompted his requests to Apple and Google.

“As industry leaders, Apple and Google can and must do more to ensure that smartphone applications made available to U.S. citizens on their platforms protect stored data from unlawful foreign exploitation, and do not compromise U.S. national security,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement. “At a minimum, Apple and Google should take steps to ensure that users are aware of the potential privacy and national security risks of sharing sensitive information with applications that store data in countries adversarial to the United States or whose developers are subsidiaries of foreign companies.”

Neither Apple nor Google immediately responded to requests for comment.

Foreign-owned applications’ potential for data theft and national security hazards prompted the Democratic National Committee to issue new guidance last week that warned staffers about using the Chinese-owned TikTok and the Russian application FaceApp, according to CNN. The Republican National Committee has similarly implemented policies discouraging the use of TikTok on employees’ devices, according to reports.

The leading presidential campaigns have already been targeted by malicious foreign actors on their Google accounts. Last month, Google said it discovered attempts by an Iran-backed group attempting to attack President Trump’s campaign and efforts by a Chinese-affiliated group looking to crack into Joseph R. Biden’s presidential campaign.

Potential targets of data theft are not limited to political actors, however. More than 50 apps available on Apple devices are suspected of spying on the content of users’ clipboards after each keystroke. Clipboards hold information that users copy and paste, and may contain private information such as passwords and messages.

Among the apps accused of impermissible clipboard snooping are TikTok, Reddit, and LinkedIn, which is facing a lawsuit in federal court over its application’s behavior. TikTok, Reddit, and LinkedIn have each said various technical errors caused inappropriate actions that they have each worked to independently fix.

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