The senator brought up China's 2017 National Intelligence Law, which states that Chinese entities must comply with government requests for information, in an interview on FOX Business' "Mornings with Maria."
"Any Chinese company that tells you that's not true is being disingenuous," Rubio, who serves on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said. "Chinese law basically says, 'If we tell you we want the data, you have to give it to us.'"
U.S. officials in favor of implementing a nationwide ban on the app unless an American company acquires its U.S. operations cite this law when voicing concerns about TikTok, a Chinese-owned social media app used by tens of millions of people — many of whom are children — in the U.S. TikTok denies accusations that it provides data to China.
"That's the issue with TikTok. It's not the videos. It's the data," the senator added. "They are collecting extraordinary amounts of data on the people who are using [the app]."
The teenagers who are using TikTok now might eventually be "our national security leaders" and "CEOs of important companies," Rubio said.
He said earlier in the interview that countries' intelligence, national security, commercial business and precision medicine will all become increasingly reliant on big data.
"To just turn that over to a country like China that has a clear, not just a capitalist economic policy, but a predatory one in which they seek not only to overtake the United States but to be the dominant geopolitical economic power in the world, is a self-inflicted wound," he said.
The Trump administration has been cracking down on Chinese-owned companies such as TikTok, WeChat, Huawei and ZTE in part due to the security concerns Rubio highlighted and also as a way to hold China accountable for other crimes including intellectual property theft, cyberattacks, fentanyl imports and human rights abuses.