i hold on to something strong ’cause i’m about to fall

leaning tower of pisa’s got nothing on me you know

hey remember the EARN IT act? how much of a problem that was? well it’s happening again. with the brand new PROTECT act (senate bill 686) the government isn’t just coming for tiktok, they’re coming for you.

did you watch the tiktok hearing? that was a clown show. a mockery of our congress, by our congress. if you haven’t, i strongly recommend you do so.

the tiktok hearing was basically the bullying of the ceo of tiktok. several representatives grilled the ceo and barely let him speak. some of the questions asked during that hearing were inane. to hear them say some of this… wild for the people who grew up knowing the answers.

does tiktok access the home wi-fi network, mr chew?

rep. richard l. hudson jr., north carolina republican

you damn well know that you cannot protect the data and security of this committee, or the 150 million users of your app, because it’s an extension of the ccp.

rep. kat cammack, florida republican

can i respond?

mr. sho chew, tiktok ceo

no, we are going to move on.

chairwoman cathy rogers, washington republican

but the tiktok hearing gave some proof. the tiktok ceo affirmed that tiktok uses wifi. which leads me into the next segment:

the PROTECT act and what it means for you

here’s the summary of the protect act from congress.gov.

This bill requires federal actions to identify and mitigate foreign threats to information and communications technology (ICT) products and services (e.g., social media applications). It also establishes civil and criminal penalties for violations under the bill.

Specifically, the Department of Commerce must identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, and mitigate transactions involving ICT products and services (1) in which any foreign adversary (such as China) has any interest, and (2) that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the safety of U.S. persons.

let’s break that down. now, first glance, it’s a bill to stop “foreign threats.” alright, if that’s an issue, do something about it. cool. the problem comes in when you actually read the bill.

the protect act sets the stage for a restriction on tiktok, but would do almost nothing for actual privacy. due to undefined mitigation measures with a side of vague enforcement provisions, it’s likely that this bill could criminalize the usage of a vpn. don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate privacy concerns with social media. we aren’t doing enough about surveillance capitalism. but this is entirely the wrong way of doing it.

this act is broad, it is vague, and it is a dangerous substitute for actual data privacy protection laws. it’s likely that this bill will never pass due to the first amendment. but the facts are still there; the existence of this act is dangerous precedent.

if congress really cares about the privacy of the average american citizen, then they should pass comprehensive consumer data privacy legislation. they should make it harder for anybody to collect massive amounts of data. blocking foreign parties doesn’t do anything when domestic actors do just the same and then sell it off to the highest bidder. i’ve gone off on this before.

so what can you do about this massive failure of reason? not much. i know that most people who are reading this can’t vote. but we can yell at the people currently in office. the eff has set up a delightful little page with more information on the bill as well as a very easy fill-in-the-blank to send a message to your representative. you can also build up your privacy before you can’t anymore. eventually, somebody’ll pass something that never should’ve went on the house floor.

  • install privacy badger, https everywhere, and ublock origin in your browser of choice, ideally firefox. these’ll get rid of trackers, encrypt your traffic, and generally improve your internet experience.
  • get a vpn and use it. i recommend mullvad, they charge about $5 a month and keep almost no other data on you.
  • use a password manager, and make it a good one. if you are currently using lastpass, drop ’em. they didn’t share information about a data breach until months after the fact.
  • speaking of passwords, stop reusing them. bad. that means a breach of some 10 year old forum is a breach of your venmo.
  • get some private communication going. use signal with your close circle of friends.

listen. these are things that you can do without putting pants on. for your sake, and the sake of everyone around you, stay secure. if you’re more secure, then everybody around you is a little bit more secure too. thanks for reading.

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