Ethical Tech

Proposed legislation in Washington, DC, aims to expand the power of the US government committee that blocked Broadcom’s takeover of Qualcomm. Firms in Silicon Valley are trying to tweak it to avoid having it hurt their businesses.

The news: Reuters says two bills—one passing through the Senate, the other in the House of Representatives—aim to give the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States greater reach. This is the panel that blocked Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm, and has recently stymied other buyouts of US firms, over fears of China acquiring American technologies or data.

But: Alphabet, Facebook, IBM, Intel, and other Silicon Valley firms are worried that new rules could make it harder for them to export products and services. According to Reuters, one draft of the bill could have forced firms to go before CFIUS when selling any form of sensitive technology overseas, even if it wasn’t particularly risky.

Reaching compromise: Tweaks have reportedly been made to both soften and harden parts of the bill. A broad plan to have CFIUS vet any products sold overseas by a “critical technology company” have been replaced with rules to just have it vet sales of particular technologies, for instance. But it may also be made able to vet smaller foreign investments into American firms than it does right now, making it easier for the committee to intervene in deals.

Why it matters: Regardless of adjustments, the bill points to a future where the government clamps down harder than ever on foreign interest in American technology—especially if that interest comes from China.