Apple and TikTok both absent from congressional hearing about tech in China

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Hong Kong police arrest smugglers with $1 million of iPhones and other devices
Tim Cook has said that China represents Apple's future biggest market.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple and Chinese music video app TikToks were the two holdouts at a U.S. congressional hearing Tuesday regarding the tech industry and China. Both were represented by empty seats.

Republican senator Josh Hawley slammed the two as “two sides of the same coin when it comes to data security.” TikTok represents the entry of Chinese tech platforms into the U.S., Hawley said. Meanwhile, Apple represents “the danger of American tech companies’ operations in China.”

Hawley said that he invited both TikTok and Apple, but both declined. Hawley’s concerns about Apple involve the way it risks “compromise to authoritarianism.” This balance is one that Apple is still working to get right. For instance, last year it acquiesced to demands that it store iCloud data for the Chinese market on third-party Chinese servers. Recently, Apple’s decision to ban an app used by Hong Kong protesters elicited a similar response.

Hearing: Challenges in China

“If you’ve got family in China or business contacts there, you cannot count on iMessage encryption to keep your interactions secure from Chinese authorities,” Hawley said. However, he did praised Apple’s overall approach to encryption and privacy.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse also singled out Facebook. He said that tech companies could do more to avoid big problems. “Willful blindness seems to be a theme among our platforms,” Whitehouse said. “They don’t want to ask the questions because they don’t want to hear the answers.”

A report published yesterday, the 2019 Freedom on the Net report, ranked China last among 65 countries on internet freedom. China was deemed the worst abuser of internet freedoms for the fourth year in a row. This includes censorship, surveillance, and more.

Tim Cook has frequently cited China as Apple’s future biggest market.

Source: Bloomberg