By David Shepardson and Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration outlined efforts this week to address growing U.S. national security concerns on foreign companies’ handling of Americans’ data.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at a U.S. Senate hearing the department is working “to secure our communications and technology networks and we are right now in the process of hiring a team to do monitoring, investigation and enforcement.”
Raimondo told Reuters after the hearing “we’re hiring dozens of people” to “look for any companies that may pose undue security risk to our networks or to our data.”
Concerns about Chinese-owned TikTok have sparked new efforts in Congress to boost powers to address it or potentially ban the popular short video sharing app.
On Wednesday, Biden administration agencies briefed senators in a previously unreported closed session on “Foreign adversaries exploitation of America’s data from social media platforms, data brokers and other companies,” according to Republican Senator Jerry Moran.
Under Commerce Secretary for Industry and Security Alan Estevez was among those addressing information and communications technology supply (ICTS) chain threats, the department said.
Around 20 senators attended the briefing organized by the Commerce Committee, aides said.
Last month, Senators Mark Warner and John Thune joined by 24 other senators proposed the Restrict Act to grant the Commerce Department new authority to review or block a range of transactions involving foreign that pose national security risks.
“I think it is a top priority and we need to move with urgency,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday of the legislative effort. “It’s more than one company and it is a constant pervasive threat and we need the permanent tools properly funded with expertise.”
The White House and Raimondo support the Restrict act. Critics say the bill is overbroad and hurts civil liberties of Americans including the more than 150 million U.S. TikTok users. Tiktok denies it improperly uses U.S. data.
Raimondo said the department has been active in addressing threats from China.
“I’ve put over 200 Chinese companies on the entity list in my tenure and we are actively, constantly investigating additional threats and if and as we think companies need to go onto the list, I will not hesitate,” she said.
Days before then President Donald Trump left office in 2021, the Commerce Department issued aimed at addressing ICTS concerns posed by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lincoln Feast)