Florida Attorney General wants to warn iOS, Android users which apps are foreign-owned

Florida Attorney General wants to warn iOS, Android users which apps are foreign-owned
Worried about national security risks, Republican Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody proposes that Apple and Google flag apps developed and/or owned by foreign companies. Moody sent letters (via AppleInsider) to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook suggesting that a special icon or designation accompany Android and iOS apps that are created or owned by a company located outside of the states.

Moody's letter naturally pointed out the one foreign-owned app that many are fearful of, TikTok. The short-form video app is always among the top titles getting installed on Android and iOS devices each year. It is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance and Moody notes that the app has "been flagged by national security experts as posing a risk to both privacy and user information."

There are concerns that TikTok can track the keystrokes that users type on its in-app keyboard allowing ByteDance to steal users' personal information related to the TikTok app. In her letter to Apple and Google, Moody mentions the high-altitude spy balloons from China recently shot out of the skies by the U.S. military. She says that events like that underscore the need to add additional protections to mobile applications.

AG Moody writes, "We must ensure that consumers have the information needed to make informed decisions about their data privacy and security. The existing lack of transparency in app stores can create a significant risk for American citizens and could cause their personal information to be exploited by foreign entities of concern." She added, "Further, it is alarming that out of the top apps in Apple's App Store [and Google's Play Store], the top three are China-based, thus equating to hundreds of millions of downloads domestically and billions worldwide."

States such as Maryland, Texas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma have banned TikTok on government devices and The House of Representatives has ordered the removal of TikTok on phones used by lawmakers and staff. Another incident that scares Moody is the discovery of code from Russian company Pushwoosh that was found in thousands of App Store apps including ones from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Army.

Moody's letter added that "Consumers deserve the highest level of transparency when choosing to download an application to their phones. This can be achieved by adding a foreign-owned and/or developed designation to applications related to these countries."
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