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Tags: tiktok | ccp | first amendment | data security

Brendan Carr: TikTok's Threat Requires It Break Ties With CCP

Brendan Carr: TikTok's Threat Requires It Break Ties With CCP
Commissioner of Federal Communications Brendan Carr testifies during a hearing before Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee at Russell Senate Office Building June 24, 2020 in Washington, D.C. The committee held a hearing to examine the oversight of Federal Communications Commission. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 10 March 2024 09:30 PM EDT

As Congress moves towards requiring TikTok to divest its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, questions have been raised about whether privacy laws could address TikTok’s threats instead. They can’t.

Privacy or data flow laws are not the same things as national security laws. They solve different problems.

Similarly, some have questioned whether TikTok presents a threat that is materially different than other Big Tech companies. It does.

Whatever concerns one has with Big Tech and their practices — and I have many, as I have detailed in op-ed pages, testimony, and elsewhere — the evidence shows that TikTok is unlike any other Big Tech company precisely because it is beholden to the CCP and advances its malign goals.

But let’s start with that first question about privacy laws.

Would stronger or different privacy laws resolve the national security concerns TikTok poses?

Not at all. Privacy laws do not address the same sets of issues as national security laws. Just look at Europe. The EU has enacted what many describe as the strictest privacy and data flow laws in the world. Yet it has also taken separate actions to ban TikTok from official devices due to security concerns.

Those TikTok bans in Europe would have been unnecessary if tough privacy laws alone were adequate to address the security risks posed by TikTok.

Nor do privacy laws deal with all features of TikTok’s threat.

For instance, limiting data flows back into China would do nothing to address the foreign influence campaigns that the CCP has been running out of TikTok. They would do nothing about TikTok pushing videos to our children that promote self-harm, eating disorders, and suicidal ideations while the version of TikTok offered in China presents kids there with videos about museum exhibits, science experiments, and other educational material.

None of this is to dismiss calls for adopting stronger data privacy laws and applying them across the board to all tech companies. Rather, the point is this: whatever benefit those new laws would deliver for users of other applications, TikTok has demonstrated — repeatedly — that only a structural remedy will be sufficient to resolve its threat to national security.

Here’s how we know that.

After reports exposed that TikTok had been misrepresenting its data flows back into Beijing, TikTok told lawmakers that it was changing its ways and walling off U.S. user data from Beijing. Those measures were part of what TikTok has described as “Project Texas.”

If TikTok had abided by those public representation, that would have operated as at least some evidence that TikTok’s issues could be addressed through ordinary data flow protections and that its Project Texas measures, which TikTok finalized during the Biden administration, might work.

But of course, TikTok had not changed its ways. As The Wall Street Journal found, TikTok just kept on sharing sensitive U.S. data with China. Personnel inside China have simply ignored the Project Texas promises that TikTok has made to U.S. lawmakers.

Or take TikTok’s decision to enable Beijing-based personnel to spy on Americans.

Initially, TikTok denied the story and claimed that the reporters lacked journalist integrity. But eventually, TikTok was forced to confess that, yes, it had illicitly surveilled the locations of specific Americans despite its representations to lawmakers.

And here’s the kicker.

TikTok spied on those Americans at the exact moment in time when it was actively negotiating with U.S. officials to resolve TikTok’s national security concerns. In other words, right when TikTok had every incentive to operate in a trustworthy manner, it still didn’t. The truth is it couldn’t.

Why? Because TikTok is different than other social media companies like Facebook or Google.

TikTok is different because it is beholden to the CCP, as the evidence conclusively establishes.

TikTok is different because its parent has a CCP cell embedded in its leadership.

TikTok is different because, as an analysis of TikTok’s source code showed, the app obtains access to an excessive, alarming, and dangerous amount of sensitive data — with one of the study’s officials stating that “the only reason this information has been gathered is for data harvesting.”

TikTok is different because, as a risk analysis that examines mobile apps for data collected, trackers, and security issues found, TikTok scored the worst — more than two times worse than industry average, including Facebook and Google — due to its number of trackers, permissions, and code severity warnings.

TikTok is different because every piece of sensitive data it collects on Americans is accessible to personnel inside Beijing, as leaked internal materials show.

TikTok is different because the average TikTok user is far more likely to be exposed to content favorable to the CCP than a user of other major social media like Facebook’s Instagram and Google’s YouTube — further evidence, in my view, of CCP control.

TikTok is different because TikTok content is amplified or suppressed based on whether it aligns with the CCP’s interests as compared to Facebook’s Instagram — and to such an extreme order of magnitude that the study’s authors found it hard to imagine that it “could occur on a platform organically, and without the knowledge and consent of the platform itself.”

TikTok is different because the CCP — including a government regulator and censor —have obtained rights to a “golden share” in a ByteDance entity that is used to enable the government to exert greater control.

Not a single one of these — or any of the many other uniquely concerning features of TikTok not listed here — are present with Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google. Let alone all of them.

Should the U.S. revise its data privacy laws across the board and apply them to all social media companies? Good here.

Should it work quickly to rein in Big Tech companies? Yes, I’ve been pushing for that outcome for years. If anything, acting on TikTok now provides an opportunity to build momentum towards that goal.

But privacy laws alone would not offer any response to TikTok’s national security threat — only a structural remedy that breaks it free from the CCP’s controls would do that.

Brendan Carr serves as a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

As Congress moves towards requiring TikTok to divest its ties to the CCP, good questions have been raised about whether privacy laws could address TikTok's threats instead. They can't. Privacy or data flow laws are not the same things as national security laws.
tiktok, ccp, first amendment, data security
Sunday, 10 March 2024 09:30 PM
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