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Florida wants Apple & Google to label apps made outside US


Republican Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wants Apple and Google to flag foreign-owned apps on iPhone and Android, citing a potential national security risk.

In letters she sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Moody calls for the companies to notify customers when they download an app owned or developed by a foreign entity, citing national security.

"We must ensure that consumers have the information needed to make informed decisions about their data privacy and security," Moody said in a letter to Apple and Google. "The existing lack of transparency in app stores can create a significant risk for Americans citizens and could cause their personal information to be exploited by foreign entities of concern."

As an example, Moody pointed to TikTok, a social media app owned by a Chinese company. Moody noted that it has "been flagged by national security experts as posing a risk to both privacy and user information."

Another example is Pushwoosh, a Russian company that created code which was found in thousands of apps in the App Store, including those from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the US Army.

"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," Moody added.

It's not clear specifically where Moody is placing her line for labeling. Her letter cites foreign-owned apps which could mean any app developed and distributed by companies or individuals outside of the US, but her examples are exclusively from China.

At present, Apple's App Store labels the developer, and includes links to a website. The nationality of the developer is not listed on the App Store page, but is generally available when users click-through to the site in question.

Several states have already banned TikTok on government devices, including Maryland, Texas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. The House of Representatives also ordered staff and lawmakers to uninstall TikTok from their devices.

The US government has ban TikTok from government-owned devices. Aspects of the federal government also want to strike it from the App Store entirely, though that has yet to be ordered from a legislative standpoint.

However, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr believes a nationwide ban is inevitable. "I don't believe there is a path forward for anything other than a ban," Carr said in a November interview. The data, he believes, could be used to covertly influence political processes in the United States, potentially to benefit China's administration.