Marco Rubio Pretends To Be A TikTok Privacy Champion, Despite Years Of Undermining U.S. Consumer Privacy

from the yeah-you're-not-helping dept

Most of the politicians you currently see in the headlines having an absolute embolism over TikTok privacy concerns, don’t seem to appreciate (or don’t want you to understand) how they helped create the problem they’re pretending to be so upset about.

The FCC’s Brendan Carr, for example, has been enjoying massive press coverage for weeks after he demanded Google and Apple ban TikTok from their app stores over privacy issues (a request he lacks the regulatory authority to even make). But Carr has historically opposed privacy reform or guidelines of any kind, creating the environment that opened the door to TikTok’s behavior.

Marco Rubio is another Senator eager to get his name in press lights as a privacy advocate, despite contributing to the problem he claims to be fixing. Rubio and Senator Mark Warner (himself a bit of a dumpster fire on numerous tech policy issues), this week, sent a letter to the FTC asking the agency to investigate TikTok privacy abuses:

“In light of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok concerning its data security, data processing, and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act promptly on this matter,” the senators wrote FTC Chair Lina Khan.

This latest wave of TikTok moral panic began after Buzzfeed reported that U.S. user TikTok data was being shared with Chinese ByteDance executives overseas, in contrast to previous company promises. The big fear is that TikTok will share U.S. user data with the Chinese government. And the Buzzfeed revelations indicate that TikTok’s promises on privacy may not be worth much.

There are a few problems here. One, TikTok’s sloppy protection of U.S. user data, and flimsy promises as to how that data is handled, is in no way out of the ordinary for foreign and domestic companies.

Two, you could destroy TikTok today and the Chinese government could still buy this (and more) dataset(s) from a wide variety of dodgy adtech, telecoms, or data brokers. Why? Because we’ve created a global free for all data collection snoopvertising ecosystem with zero functional oversight and prioritized making money over consumer welfare. Repeatedly. For decades.

Marco Rubio has routinely voted against even modest privacy safeguards. Like he did in 2017 when he and the entirety of the GOP used the Congressional Review Act to demolish modest FCC broadband privacy safeguards after receiving thousands of dollars from telecom giants.

Most of the same folks now posturing on TikTok refuse to adequately fund or staff the FTC and FCC, and work pretty consistently to undermine oversight regulatory authority in high abuse sectors. These folks also oppose absolutely any state or federal privacy laws or reform.

They’ve actively cultivated an environment where there’s zero repercussions for being sloppy on U.S. consumer data, now posture on a single company’s abuse of an environment they created. And in many cases, like Carr and Rubio, they’ve had absolutely no comment on how this environment they created will now be exploited by authoritarians and radicals post Roe.

If you want to “fix” TikTok, you need to fix the broader ecosystem of lax privacy and security standards and penalties. Just freaking out about TikTok isn’t enough. Demanding the FTC (you’ve intentionally stripped of funding and authority over 30 years) investigate isn’t enough, as the best possible end result will almost certainly be a flimsy fine TikTok lawyers can tap dance over, under, and around.

Keep in mind, a lot of these folks are just posturing. In some cases, they’re part of an ongoing K Street campaign by Facebook to smear TikTok. In other instances, they just want to justify stealing TikTok and offloading it to U.S. companies (like Trump tried to do with Walmart and Oracle). In other instances, they’re just interested in agitating and animating the base with xenophobic moral panics to boost their political aspirations.

But for so many of these guys (Carr and Rubio in particular) you can’t look at their policy track record and honestly believe that consumer privacy reform has ever, for a single moment, been a genuine priority.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: tiktok

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Marco Rubio Pretends To Be A TikTok Privacy Champion, Despite Years Of Undermining U.S. Consumer Privacy”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Naughty Autie says:

Like he did in 2017 when he and the entirety of the GOP used the Congressional Review Act to demolish modest FCC broadband privacy safeguards after receiving thousands of dollars from telecom giants.

An inevitable outcome of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. But hey, at least corporations’ free speech rights are no longer in doubt. (-_Q)

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3

The issue being that a republican supporter likely wouldn’t have mentioned the Hot Coffee lawsuit as non-frivolous. Republicans like to point to the Hot Coffee lawsuit as an example of litigation gone wild and base a need for tort reform on such claims. Leftists who spend the time to learn about the case typically find that the perception of the case as frivolous was the result of marketing/propeganda put out by McDs, and that the deeper you look, the worse things look for McD.

I am left of Democrats. It doesn’t make me a right-winger if I correctly point out when you have been sold a shit sandwich by democrats who want you to believe CU was the start of dark money and corporate personhood.

CU was the culmination of dozens of rulings. Corporate personhood? A different case. Money is speech? Different case. The ability to speak as a collective? Different case. If you revoke CU today, you cut off one source of dark money advertising, political adverts. The dark money funneled into the removal of privacy regulation did not happen through political electioneering advertizement. it would have had no bearing on the situation, in contrast to the suggestion by Autie.

What US politicos don’t want you to realize is the dark money is funneled in far higher amounts through other legal processes. CU legalized the way they can directly affect your opinion. But the ways they directly influence politicos, like the dark money that gets funneled into SCOTUS nom campaigns, would be untouched. I wholeheartedly recommend the video Mike linked below:

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5

CU v FEC revoked a rule banning electioneering within 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election. The basis was in part that money is speech, but that basis is founded in past decisions.

Buckley v Valeo in 1976 provided that we had a right to spend money to amplify our speech, and limiting that right is unconstitutional. That provides the basis for PAC spending outside electioneering, and the basis of CU v FEC. And there have been others. Austin V Michigan in 1990 authorized unlimited corporate spending to ‘independent messaging’, or Super PACs. Super PACs were unaffected by CU, because its ruling was about electioneering.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

He’s right about Citizens United though. If you have complaints about money in politics, it’s not because of CU.

I found this video particularly clear on the problems of blaming CU:

I have serious issues with the way money in politics works today. But the issue, to me, has more to do with the conception and setup of PACs, not CU specifically.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Republican shill? Man, wish I hadn’t spent the last decade shitting on republican politics.

No, you just read unsupported motives and strawmen and built an entire political identity for me from a truthful comment about how blaming CU v FEC for any and all dark money campaigns is stupid and the idea that revokation of privacy regulation is the inevitable consequence of CU v FEC is laughable. Limitations on electioneering advertising are the least of the ways dark money influences republican policy decisions.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Give me a minute, I'm sure it'll come to me...

Hmm, I wonder what might be different about a chinese company that if memory serves was used to prank the republican’s Dear Leader that would have the same politicians who have been rabidly against any sort of privacy regulations and limitations on useage of user/customer data when it came to damn near every other company and industry suddenly be huge fans of both…

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...