In brief: Rep. Stephen Lynch, chair of a US congressional panel on national security, has written to Apple and Google asking whether apps are required to disclose overseas ties, as concerns loom around their ability to send sensitive information of US citizens to their host governments.

In a letter to CEOs of Apple and Google, House Oversight subcommittee chairman Rep. Stephen Lynch has sought information on whether or not the two largest mobile platforms require app developers to "disclose potential overseas affiliations before making their products available to U.S. users," reports Reuters.

Following privacy concerns, particularly around Chinese apps like TikTok and Grindr, the document requests both company executives from Apple and Google to submit their responses by January 10, 2020.

Recent scrutiny by US officials led TikTok to separate itself from parent company Bytedance, in a bid to avoid Grindr's fate, which will reportedly be sold off by Chinese owner Kunlun Tech, in June 2020.

"By collecting personal information on U.S. government personnel who have access to classified information, foreign adversaries may attempt to expose them to blackmail, tailor intelligence spotting or recruitment activities to specific targets, or exert undue foreign influence in U.S. policymaking," said Chairman Lynch in his letter, adding that the use of artificial intelligence could enable "foreign adversaries to manipulate user-provided data to create profiles on average US citizens that could be leveraged in future military conflicts or diplomatic disputes."

He also noted that US laws permit mobile applications to collect massive amounts of personal information about users, based on their consent. "However, many smartphone owners are not aware that by consenting to an application's service agreement, they are authorizing the application to access significant quantities of personal, and oftentimes sensitive, information."

Although Apple and Google have app store policies designed to keep questionable software in check, there is no current mechanism to restrict apps based on their country of origin. Both companies are yet to issue an official response.