Apple, alongside viral video sharing app TikTok, skipped a congressional hearing today that focused on the relationship between the tech industry and China. The absence of an Apple representative drew ire from some lawmakers at today’s hearing.
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As reported by The Washington Post, two empty chairs at the witness table today served to represent the absence of Apple and TikTok. Right from the start, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, took issue with the absence of the two companies.
Hawley, who led today’s session, said that Apple and TikTok represent “two sides of the same coin,” with TikTok representing “danger of Chinese tech platforms’ entry into the U.S. market” and Apple representing “the danger of American tech companies’ operations in China.”
Senator Hawley, a frequent critic of the tech industry, said that Apple’s ties to China are “risking compromise with authoritarianism.” He also took issue with Apple storing iCloud data of Chinese users on a government-owned server, which it is required to do by law.
Hawley said the setup could undermine users’ security, echoing concerns raised by some human rights and privacy advocates. Apple previously has said it advocated against the law but was unsuccessful.
Ultimately, Hawley noted that people are used to hearing about Apple as “a good corporate citizen” because of its emphasis on privacy, but the growing entanglements with China should cause concern, he said:
“We’re accustomed in hearings like this one to hearing about Apple as a good corporate citizen,” the senator said, citing the company’s privacy practices. “But Apple’s business model and business practices are increasingly entangled with China, a fact they would rather we think not too much about.”
Today’s congressional hearing comes after Apple has faced several controversies over its actions in China. Last month, Apple removed a Hong Kong protest application from the App Store, with Tim Cook defending the decision by saying the app was used to “maliciously” target police.
Apple’s relationship with China has drawn concern from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Last month, the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz penned an open letter to Tim Cook on the matter.
TikTok & Apple getting the empty seat treatment for @HawleyMO’s hearing on China & data security pic.twitter.com/dijYVgRCgK
— Cristiano Lima (@viaCristiano) November 5, 2019
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