Bennet, Bipartisan Senators Introduce Legislation to Tackle Foreign Technology Threats

Washington, D.C. — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), alongside a bipartisan group of their colleagues to introduce the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act. This legislation will comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries, such as TikTok, by better empowering the Department of Commerce to review, prevent, and mitigate information communications and technology transactions that pose undue risk to our national security.

“We shouldn’t let any company subject to the Chinese Communist Party’s dictates collect data on a third of our population – and while TikTok is just the latest example, it won’t be the last,” said Bennet. “The federal government can’t continue to address new foreign technology from adversarial nations in a one-off manner; we need a strategic, enduring mechanism to protect Americans and our national security. I look forward to working in a bipartisan way with my colleagues on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee to send this bill to the floor.”

“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S. Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices,” said Warner. “We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”

“Congress needs to stop taking a piecemeal approach when it comes to technology from adversarial nations that pose national security risks,” said Thune. “Our country needs a process in place to address these risks, which is why I’m pleased to work with Senator Warner to establish a holistic, methodical approach to address the threats posed by technology platforms – like TikTok – from foreign adversaries. This bipartisan legislation would take a necessary step to ensure consumers’ information and our communications technology infrastructure is secure.”

The RESTRICT Act establishes a risk-based process, tailored to the rapidly changing technology and threat environment, by directing the Department of Commerce to identify and mitigate foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services.

Specifically, the RESTRICT Act would:

  • Require the Secretary of Commerce to establish procedures to identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, and mitigate transactions involving information and communications technology products in which any foreign adversary has any interest and poses undue or unacceptable risk to national security;

  • Prioritize evaluation of information communications and technology products used in critical infrastructure, integral to telecommunications products, or pertaining to a range of defined emerging, foundational, and disruptive technologies with serious national security implications;

  • Ensure comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products by requiring the Secretary to take up consideration of concerning activity identified by other government entities; and

  • Educate the public and business community about the threat by requiring the Secretary of Commerce to coordinate with the Director of National Intelligence to provide declassified information on how transactions denied or otherwise mitigated posed undue or unacceptable risk.

“We need to protect Americans’ data and keep our country safe against today and tomorrow’s threats. While many of these foreign-owned technology products and social media platforms like TikTok are extremely popular, we also know these products can pose a grave danger to Wisconsin’s users and threaten our national security,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. “This bipartisan legislation will empower us to respond to our fast-changing environment – giving the United States the tools it needs to assess and act on current and future threats that foreign-owned technologies pose to Wisconsinites and our national security.”

“There are a host of dangerous technology platforms – including TikTok – that can be manipulated by China and other foreign adversaries to threaten U.S. national security and abuse Americans’ personal data. I’m proud to join Senator Warner in introducing bipartisan legislation that would put an end to disjointed interagency responses and strengthen the federal government’s ability to counter these digital threats,” said U.S. Senator Deb Fischer.

“Over the past several years, foreign adversaries of the United States have encroached on American markets through technology products that steal sensitive location and identifying information of U.S. citizens, including social media platforms like TikTok. This dangerous new internet infrastructure poses serious risks to our nation’s economic and national security,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. “I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan RESTRICT ACT, which will empower the Department of Commerce to adopt a comprehensive approach to evaluating and mitigating these threats posed by technology products. As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this critical legislation across the finish line.”

“Foreign adversaries are increasingly using products and services to collect information on American citizens, posing a threat to our national security,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran.  “This legislation would give the Department of Commerce the authority to help prevent adversarial governments from introducing harmful products and services in the U.S., providing us the long-term tools necessary to combat the infiltration of our information and communications systems. The government needs to be vigilant against these threats, but a comprehensive data privacy law is needed to ensure Americans are able to control who accesses their data and for what purpose.”

“China’s brazen incursion of our airspace with a sophisticated spy balloon was only the most recent and highly visible example of its aggressive surveillance that has targeted our country for years.  Through hardware exports, malicious software, and other clandestine means, China has sought to steal information in an attempt to gain a military and economic edge,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins. “Rather than taking a piecemeal approach to these hostile acts and reacting to each threat individually, our legislation would create a wholistic, government-wide response to proactively defend against surveillance attempts by China and other adversaries. This will directly improve our national security as well as safeguard Americans’ personal information and our nation’s vital intellectual property.”

“The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a multi-generational, multi-faceted, and systematic campaign to replace the United States as the world’s superpower. One tool at its disposal—the ability to force social media companies headquartered in China, like TikTok’s parent company, to hand over the data it collects on users,” said Senator Mitt Romney. “Our adversaries—countries like China, Russia, Iran—are increasingly using technology products to spy on Americans and discover vulnerabilities in our communications infrastructure, which can then be exploited. The United States must take stronger action to safeguard our national security against the threat technology products pose and this legislation is a strong step in that direction.”

Last month, Bennet called on Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to remove TikTok from their app stores immediately given its unacceptable risk to U.S. national security and met with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to express his concerns about the digital platform’s risk to young Americans and our national security. Last year, Bennet introduced first-of-its-kind legislation to create a Federal Digital Platform Commission, an expert federal body empowered to provide comprehensive, sector-specific oversight of digital platforms to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest. 

In addition to Bennet, Warner, and Thune, the bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

The text of the bill is available HERE. A summary of the bill is available HERE.