The RESTRICT Act isn’t Enough: Here’s What Congress Should be Doing

The RESTRICT Act isn’t Enough: Here’s What Congress Should be Doing

restrict act
restrict act

By Mark LeVell, CEO, 4Thought Marketing

In the face of mounting concerns about the privacy and security of users’ data on social media platforms like TikTok, the US Congress seemingly has two primary options:

  1. Pass the RESTRICT Act, which could grant the Executive Branch the power of censorship
  2. Implement comprehensive privacy laws that protect consumers

Those of us here at 4Thought Marketing believe that the latter option is far more effective and beneficial for US citizens. Let’s take a closer look at why.

What is the RESTRICT Act?

The bill’s full title sums up its purpose quite well: “Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act”. For the sake of simplicity, the rest of this article will simply refer to it as the RESTRICT Act.

The act was introduced in Congress as a response to red flags surrounding the popular social media app TikTok. According to the New York Times, TikTok’s rapid rise in popularity has raised concerns about data privacy, particularly with the app’s Chinese ownership. TikTok’s influence is undeniable, but as the app’s poor privacy track record (and that of social media in general) has shown, its international ownership could pose security risks. The RESTRICT Act aims to ban TikTok and hopefully eliminate these risks.

The Potential Impact of the RESTRICT Act: More than TikTok is on the Chopping Block

It is crucial to consider past instances of privacy violations by major tech companies when crafting comprehensive privacy legislation. Facebook, for example, notoriously violated privacy laws by allowing data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica to access and exploit users’ data for political purposes. This breach of trust potentially influenced the 2016 US presidential election and highlighted the urgent need for stronger privacy protection measures. The proposed legislation should not only focus on addressing concerns about foreign-owned apps like TikTok but also ensure that homegrown tech giants such as Facebook are held accountable for their actions. By addressing these past violations and implementing robust privacy laws, Congress can create a more secure digital environment where users’ data is protected from exploitation, regardless of the platform’s origin.

In response to these concerns, the RESTRICT Act has been proposed as one way to potentially ban TikTok. However, this legislation contains broad language that could impact various apps and communication services, as well as security tools like VPNs, that have connections to foreign countries. Critics argue that the RESTRICT Act may infringe on the First Amendment, tie up the government’s ability to solve the problem in courts for years, and lead to accusations of abuse of power for political reasons. Moreover, the act could enable the government to make decisions about which apps US citizens can and cannot use, without any citizen recourse.

restrict act

A Comprehensive Federal US Privacy Law: A Better Use of Government Resources

Instead of granting the Executive Branch such sweeping power, comprehensive privacy laws would offer a more effective and targeted solution. These laws could define where US citizens’ data must be stored, how and when it can be moved to and stored in other countries, and grant citizens the right to access, delete, and control the sale of their data. Furthermore, comprehensive privacy laws could clarify what actions require consent from users. The GDPR already does all of the above in Europe. And as history has shown, despite its flaws, strict enforcement of the GDPR has brought about improvement in European data protection.

By implementing privacy laws, the US government can take legal action against companies that fail to comply, such as shutting them down, imposing fines, or punishing their executives. This approach respects the proper legal process and avoids the potential pitfalls of the RESTRICT Act.

Final Thoughts: We Can Do Better than the RESTRICT Act

In conclusion, comprehensive privacy laws like the proposed American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) offer a far better solution to addressing data privacy concerns than the potentially overreaching and problematic RESTRICT Act. By focusing on protecting consumers’ rights and privacy, Congress can avoid the risks associated with granting the Executive Branch excessive power while still addressing the legitimate concerns surrounding apps like TikTok.

Regardless of what direction the US government takes with future privacy laws, your company needs to stay on top of things. Our user-friendly privacy software, 4Comply, gives you an easy way to ensure you know exactly what laws apply to your business and stay in full compliance at all times. Contact us today for more information and a free demo.