The TikTok Hearings

Law, Policy—and IT?
I was in Massachusetts in 2016 when Donald Trump as a candidate for president invited the Russian Federation to invade U.S. servers for information about Hillary Clinton’s servers. That was a moment in time for me. I was eating dinner, a pizza from the Federal Restaurant in the Agawam, MA. As a cybersecurity policy educator, I threw my thin-crust pizza at the television in my newly purchased condo in Feeding Hills, MA. As I cleaned the pizza up, and my new carpet, I thought to myself, Tracy, you can do better than this behavior, and that was the moment I thought, maybe I should return to New York (where I had never given up my residences) and run for Congress. Eventually, I did, resigning a position that paid about as much as a seat in Congress, on December 5, 2017, to launch a campaign for Congress for the election of 2018, and then, strategically, 2020. The failure to uncover the sexual assault of my opponent in 2017 that was then revealed in 2021 and resulted in his resignation from Congress, and then in 2020, COVID and the “Trump Effect,” in a +20 Republican District, resulted in my loss in both elections.

If you do a ChatGPT on me, you will learn that I have cybersecurity policy expertise. Yes! I have been among many other scholars and activists who have been calling for advanced privacy and security legislation in the United States. I have also been on record for calling for the United States to lead, as it did in technology, to create a fair, appropriate, internet governance structure globally as the legal component to the technical for global internet governance.

Apart from some scholars, such as Laura Denardis, now at Georgetown, few have followed that position, so stuck are we in technology without thought about law and policy. And now, after listening to this day-long hearing of the CEO of TikTok, I renew my concern. You think TikTok has abused your data, read Shoshana Zuboff’s book, Surveillance Capitalism. Or don’t read what you don’t know about FISA investigations, because in a democratic republic they are processed by a secret court. If you think that the People’s Republic of China manages the market in China, you are right! Without a commitment to the rule of law, if ruling members of the CCP want to “re-educate” technology leaders, they simply arrest them and hold them for re-education. Unheard of in the United States. But if you, as a consumer of internet social media apps are treated with any more respect, you are terribly mistaken and do not understand how the market leads the policy, such as it is, in the United States. And you, as a consumer, have no recourse. Your Congress has been bought and sold by the big lobbying money of Big Tech to keep it that way.

So I refer again to the post I made a bit ago on the question of TikTok. I advise that the population of the United States, if you are activated by the testimony of the CEO of TikTok today, you might have something to say about the information gathering practices of good, old U.S. companies, right at the top: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, for sure, maybe Apple (which has been more careful, or more cagey, about what they do with data). My response to the testimony today repeats what I already posted a couple of weeks ago on this subject: here, in January, and then more recently here.

We have much to be concerned about the People’s Republic of China. But let us not be hypocrites. We have a lot to clean up on the question of data capture and its effects on consumer privacy, not to mention citizenship in a democratic republic, that listening to most of the congresspeople speaking today with their full-blown self-righteousness about the PRC belies the work ahead of us to clean up our own house.

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Advice Newsletter publication dates:
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Diversity Newsletter publication date:
Thursday, March 23, 2023