The truth behind the TikTok hearing… Your vacuum cleaner could be spying on you… Two words that make every American a suspect… This is what concerns me the most...
- As you read this, politicians on both sides of Capitol Hill are trying to take away your freedoms.
I wish that was an exaggeration… but it’s not.
A new bipartisan law was recently introduced to Congress. If passed, you can wave goodbye to your right to privacy in your own home.
Because it will label every single American a potential threat to the state.
And give the government the right to monitor what you do in your own home at all times.
Of course, the media isn’t framing it this way.
They’re barely covering it at all. And when they do, they’ll label it something innocuous like…
- The “Ban TikTok” Act.
US lawmakers recently hauled the CEO of popular social media app TikTok in front of Congress.
They grilled him on accusations that TikTok—which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance—is spying on us through its highly addictive app that’s installed on most American teenagers’ phones.
TikTok can’t read your texts and emails directly. But it does a lot of other things.
It admitted to tracking journalists’ physical movements and sending the data to its Chinese parent company. It also collects your faceprints and voiceprints.
That’s why a contact of mine—who runs a venture capital fund—told me it’s the one app he doesn’t let his kids use. He went so far as to call it “fentanyl for the brain.”
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Lawmakers already knew this before the hearing. If they wanted to ban TikTok, they could have done it years ago.
That’s not why this hearing took place. They did it to lay the groundwork for a new, alarmingly draconian law they’d like you to accept.
- It’s called the RESTRICT Act.
Remember the PATRIOT Act?
It was a series of sweeping anti-terrorist laws enacted after 9/11.
Problem is… two decades later, the same laws designed to take down terrorists are now being used to surveil ordinary Americans.
For example, the FBI can secretly wiretap you without probable cause. Try withdrawing $10,000 (of your own cash), and you’ll be questioned like a terrorist and reported to the IRS.
The RESTRICT Act is the PATRIOT Act for the internet.
The Patriot Act allowed the government to secretly listen in on your phone calls, read your emails, and browse through your internet history.
The RESTRICT Act takes it one step further…
It was introduced to Congress a few weeks ago by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD). It’s supported by over 20 politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mitt Romney.
If voted into law, it would grant the government the right to access any device in your home connected to the internet.
And I’m not talking about just laptops and smartphones. A modern home has tons of devices connected to Wi-Fi. Home security cameras, baby monitors, robot vacuums, smart speakers, smart thermostats, cars…
Think how many devices in your home feature a camera or a microphone. The government will have legal rights to access them all. They’ll be able to see and hear everything you do in your own home.
- I’ve read through the bill. It’s shockingly authoritarian and grants broad powers no government should have…
Hidden amid pages upon pages of lawyer-speak is Sec3(a).
It states the US government:
…is authorized to and shall take action to identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, or otherwise mitigate, including by negotiating, entering into, or imposing, and enforcing any mitigation measure to address any risk arising from any covered transaction by any person.
Without getting into the legalese, here’s what you need to know.
The RESTRICT Act defines “covered transaction” as “current, past, or potential future transactions.”
That means if the government suspects you might do something bad in the future, it can spy on you.
The law defines the term “transaction” just as loosely…
It says the “acquisition of information” is a transaction. So, if you read a blog or watch a YouTube video from a “risky” source, you’re a suspect, and they have the right to spy on you.
This is one of the biggest power grabs in American history… under the guise of banning TikTok.
Now, please understand this is one of the oldest tricks in the book for a government to seize power.
Just like terrorism was a real problem… so too is Chinese spying.
That doesn’t mean we must forfeit our rights to solve it.
The same folks saying, “If you’re not for the PATRIOT Act, you’re with the terrorists,” are now telling us, “If you’re not for the RESTRICT Act, you’re with the communists.”
Don’t be fooled.
- Forgive me for getting fired up about this. I love technology and hate to see it weaponized by governments and turned against ordinary people.
President Biden says he’ll sign the RESTRICT Act if it passes through Congress.
Hopefully, it doesn’t make it that far.
It’s worrying that almost two dozen elected US senators and The White House support this crazy “nanny state” bill. But I don’t see it passing anytime soon.
There’s been strong pushback against the RESTRICT Act from the public since it was introduced. And passing any new laws with the current divided government is a tall order.
What concerns me is how laws like the RESTRICT Act could be pushed through during a crisis.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old Winston Churchill quote: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Politicians are masters at pouncing on opportunities to pass new laws when some new crisis scares large swaths of the population.
Americans never would have put up with the PATRIOT Act if 9/11 didn’t happen. We would have balked at the idea of “lockdowns” if not faced with the “deadly” COVID virus.
It’s only a matter of time before the next major cyberattack… or some Chinese-related threat.
Uncle Sam could use this to push through the RESTRICT Act, which would end the era of the open internet.
Forewarned is forearmed. Be on the lookout for the next crisis, armed with the knowledge that it’s simply an excuse to take away your freedoms.
Chief Analyst, RiskHedge
PS: You can read the RESTRICT Act here. If you do, let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the mailbag…
Readers are still writing in regarding our RiskHedge Report: Will ChatGPT kill college? Here’s what one reader says about the new GPT-4... including some words of wisdom for young folks:
There is no doubt these GPT-4 artificial intelligence apps will remake learning and colleges. So far, they have not been able to create one of our unique human abilities—consciousness.
My advice to young people is to head for careers that make use of our (still) unique trait [as] humans. We will be able to use the AI robots for the intelligence part of life.
Thank you for writing about GPT-4. —Steve