Congress's utterly incompetent and malicious moves in tech
Updated: May 17
Chinese tech firms doing business in the US have come under more and more scrutiny in recent years. The video-sharing software TikTok has been one of the most prominent targets of this scrutiny. It has been charged with posing a security danger because it is "owned" by a Chinese company, however, 60% of company shares belong to non-Chinese investors including the likes of Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and the Japanese SoftBank Group, and another 20% to ByteDance employees leaving only 20% ownership to the Chinese ByteDance Corporation.
However, the reality is more nuanced than the sound bites and video clips would imply, as is frequently the case in politics.
Congress itself provides one of the most egregious instances of hypocrisy on this subject. Members of Congress expressed alarm about the likelihood that the Chinese government could access user data and complained that TikTok's data was not safe in the latter half of 2020. The fact that all American TikTok data is kept at Oracle in the U.S. is something that many of these same members neglected to mention. This implies that TikTok's data actually enjoys the same legal and regulatory safeguards as those enjoyed by any other American corporation.
This situation reeks of hypocrisy. Why doesn't Congress set an example if they genuinely feel that storing data domestically is the best way to guarantee data security and prevent access to data by foreign governments? After all, according to sources, the U.S. military, multiple state governments, and multiple federal agencies use Oracle Cloud. Why is Oracle insufficient for TikTok if it is sufficient for the federal government and the military?
Naturally, the explanation is that this problem has nothing to do with data security at all. Politics and geopolitics are discussed. People who wish to portray China as a danger to American national security have found TikTok to be an easy target. TikTok's popularity among young people makes it a convenient target for politicians looking to impress their supporters by portraying China in a negative light.
The issue is that this approach to technology policy is misguided and inconsistent. It disregards the allegations of privacy abuses and data breaches leveled against numerous American IT giants. Additionally, it ignores the critical and innovative work being done by numerous Chinese businesses in industries like renewable energy and artificial intelligence. The United States runs the danger of missing out on significant technological advancements and cooperation by condemning all Chinese tech businesses.
Finally, the absurdity of Congress criticizing TikTok's data security while utilizing Oracle Cloud themselves is a perfect illustration of the issues with American tech policy. Policymakers should concentrate on establishing nuanced and evidence-based approaches to data security and privacy rather than indulging in oversimplified and politically motivated rhetoric. Then, regardless of where the data is kept, we can be certain that it is secure. There is another level of hypocrisy at work in addition to the hypocrisy of Congress criticizing TikTok's data security while utilizing Oracle Cloud themselves. Numerous members of Congress who have criticized TikTok and other Chinese internet firms have stakes in Facebook, a company with a lengthy history of security breaches and which is currently under fire for how it handles user data.
Over the years, data security and privacy problems have plagued Meta, formerly known as Facebook. It was discovered in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, had improperly collected the data of millions of Facebook users and used it to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook has additionally come under fire for allowing foreign organizations to use its platform to disseminate false information and foment political unrest.
More recently, Facebook has been under scrutiny for how it handled user information pertaining to the Capitol riots on January 6th. According to reports, Facebook did nothing to stop the "Stop the Steal" movement from disseminating false information before the election and inciting the attack on the Capitol. The FTC is also suing Facebook over claims that it has a monopoly on social media and has engaged in anti-competitive behavior.
Hypocrisy is evident in the fact that many members of Congress who criticize the security of TikTok use the same data storage resources for their own government while they have holdings in Facebook. These Congressmen are prepared to ignore Facebook's well-known security breaches and nefarious data usage in order to malign Chinese internet firms for political purposes and gain.
In conclusion, another illustration of the faults with U.S. tech policy is the hypocrisy of Congress funding Facebook while concurrently denouncing Chinese tech companies for data security and privacy issues. Politicians should put more effort into establishing evidence-based methods to ensure data security and privacy rather than playing political games and condemning entire nations and sectors of the economy. And possibly, they should take a CompTIA A+ class before speaking on how technology works when the entire country would question if they are technically competent enough to do something as basic as set up their own modem and router. "does TikTok access the home WiFi network?" -Richard Hudson, representing North Carolina in Congress.
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