from the end-of-the-line dept
Remember when America spent a year and a half hyperventilating about a Chinese teen dancing app instead of securing American infrastructure from Russian hackers or other threats? Remember when a bunch of GOP officials with a long track record of not caring whatsoever about consumer privacy or internet security exploited xenophobic fears about the app to land political allies Oracle and Walmart a major windfall? Remember when 90% of the press couldn’t be bothered to inform readers this was all performative cronyism by an unqualified nitwit? Good times.
This morning the Wall Street Journal announced that the much hyped deal to sell ByteDance-owned TikTok to Oracle and Walmart is looking unsurprisingly dead in the wake of previous legal challenges and Trump’s election loss. Instead, the government appears poised to do what made sense from the start: focus on the broader problem of lax privacy and dodgy security standards across the board in telecom/adtech/tech, instead of singling out a teen dancing app:
“We plan to develop a comprehensive approach to securing U.S. data that addresses the full range of threats we face,? National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said. ?This includes the risk posed by Chinese apps and other software that operate in the U.S. In the coming months, we expect to review specific cases in light of a comprehensive understanding of the risks we face.”
Again, this whole effort was about little more than Trump trying to gain leverage in a ham-fisted and unproductive trade war, while using the power of his office to hand over a successful business to his political buddies at Oracle and Walmart. Yet somehow, they managed to get the majority of the US technology press to believe this was some genuine, good faith effort to shore up consumer privacy. There were a few exceptions to this rule in press and policy circles, but they were the exception, not the norm:
If you dropped a penny from the top of our list of legitimate cybersecurity concerns, it would hit TikTok sometime around 2023. Anyone making noise about this is telling you they?re a clown. https://t.co/ardPIuKY1h
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) July 16, 2020
Of course it was never really about security and privacy, since there’s a parade of other more pressing issues Trump and the GOP clearly didn’t care about. Trumpland opposed absolutely anything even resembling consumer privacy rules and standards for the internet era. It opposed funding improved election security. It clearly failed to secure US networks from hackers, and did little to nothing to shore up very real US security vulnerabilities be it the SS7 flaw or the dumpster fire that is the internet of broken things. They didn’t genuinely care about internet privacy and security. They just didn’t.
As such this wasn’t just a failure for Trump, it was an immense failure for the US technology press, which successfully parroted Trump’s claims that they were just really worried about consumer data privacy, despite zero evidence on any other front that this was actually true. While the Journal tries to feebly suggest that a deal could still be struck to sell TikTok, that doesn’t seem likely. Instead the saga appears to be dying with a sad, quiet whimper, with the only winners being those who gobbled up the millions in billable legal hours to pursue this idiotic tech policy brain fart.