Would you rather: TikTok or DHS?

in #news4 years ago


News readers in the US were greeted by all-too-familiar stories this weekend involving significant overreach by organizations spying on US citizens. It turns out some dastardly foreigners have been illicitly collecting the data of our most prestigious youthful dancers on TikTok. Although this might be alarming to someone who is unaware of what the installed apps on their phone are currently doing, the ignorance and hypocrisy implicit in the government's reaction to these headlines is even more so.

If an app is secretly collecting and transmitting data, that is clearly an immoral breach of privacy, but it's also standard industry practice. Security researchers have been warning users for years that third party apps are out-of-control spyware. Researchers from University of Iowa released a study in which they discovered 16 of the 1024 Facebook apps monitored were illicitly sharing private user information.

Apple's iOS14 caught TikTok secretely copying content from users' clipboards. However, they also discovered apps like Reddit, LinkedIn, and most major news organisations doing the exact same thing. Why are Reddit, LinkedIn, Facebook, and major media companies treated differently than TikTok?

The answer to that question reveals the government's pushback against this particular app has nothing to do with protecting the privacy of users. There is no care and no robust plan to protect citizen's digital information from apps, only targeted aggression against Chinese software. If the US government wanted to protect the privacy of its citizens, it would create laws against harvesting user data like the General Data Protection Regulations in Europe and apply them to all apps.

A similar headline that received much less fanfare was the Department of Homeland Security using its vast authoritarian powers to spy on journalists.

DHS was created in 2002 with the promise to prevent terrorism on home soil, but as former National Security Council Coordinator Richard Clarke puts it, now is a department "that cages children, swoops innocent citizens off U.S. streets, sends warriors dressed for the apocalypse to deal with protests, hunts down hard-working people doing 'essential jobs' to forcibly deport them, and harasses foreign students at leading universities." Generations of Patriot Act renewals and blank checks have empowered this military class to declare any citizen a terrorist and strip away their constitutional rights.

My question for the audience is who would you rather spy on you, TikTok or the Department of Homeland Security?

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