How could the RESTRICT Act change the IT sector and VPN access, and what is it?
TikTok, a social networking app controlled by the Chinese government, and the United States government are at an all-time high in their disagreement, with a wave of rules prohibiting its usage on government devices sweeping throughout the Western hemisphere.
However, it seems that the White House's ultimate objective is an outright ban for all US residents, making VPN services essential for keeping access to the app. However, from a legal standpoint, enforcing such a prohibition has proven difficult.
A new piece of legislation submitted in the US Senate might be the catalyst for an immediate ban on the popular video-sharing app TikTok. But the RESTRICT Act might affect more than just the Chinese-owned video-sharing app. The stakes for American and even perhaps, in the future, British consumers are as follows.
Latest VPN news: Exactly what is the RESTRICT Act?
Following Google's first VPN, called “VPN by Google One”, now comes news of the RESTRICT Act, which was initially proposed in the Senate on March 7 by Senators John Thune and Mark Warner, two members of both parties.
The purpose of the bill is to provide the Department of Commerce the authority to assess and ban technology that allows for the interaction of user data in the US with “foreign adversaries”, as the name indicates.
Currently, the six identified rivals presenting a substantial threat to US national security are Cuba, China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea, but the blacklist is subject to additional inclusion in the future.
An official statement says the measure provides a systematic framework to address tech-based adversaries to the safety and security of Americans, and calls on Congress to send the legislation to the President as soon as possible.
It has been approved by the White House and is now being examined by Congress. The administration is reportedly “very in favour” of the plan, according to some papers like the Guardian, and it has the backing of both Democrats and Republicans.
Meanwhile, the number of detractors on the Internet and elsewhere is expanding. The US RESTRICT Act is even more significant than TikTok because it grants the executive branch wide authority to regulate citizens' use of the internet; an example of censorship.
Reasons for controversy
Despite Google's first VPN validating the need for online privacy, the RESTRICT Act is coming under fire from experts who say it gives the Secretary of Commerce too much authority by allowing him or her to pick which technology the public in the United States may use.
They also express concern that the new law would have far-reaching, harmful effects on individuals' digital rights due to its vague phrasing.
Prohibiting certain social media or technologies really opposes the goals of free and open digital worlds and generates big concerns over digital freedom in the future for the US and even the UK.
Instead than focusing on limiting people's ability to use new technologies, the United States government should seek to enhance the present patchwork of laws safeguarding people's privacy and data security.
The difficulty of banning TikTok and other apps like VPNs…
Let us have a look at the reasons behind the bill before diving into the potential consequences of it being passed.
Even while TikTok is not singled out by name in the Act, and it does not flag results from “dark web report” tools for illicit criminal use of user data, to it is undeniably one of the primary motivations for legislators to come together to craft a framework for dealing with comparable dilemmas.
Banning the most popular social networking app on browsers and phones in the United States, TikTok, is easier said than done, even if it is a privacy nightmare on par with other sites.
In fact, the Trump administration made an effort along these lines in 2020, a year after Trump successfully barred American businesses from trading with Chinese technology giant Huawei.
TikTok launched a lawsuit against the United States government, which put a stop to plans to sell a portion of the social media platform to a corporation based in the United States. When Joe Biden became president, he immediately reversed all of these policies.
After two years, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) still has not heard any evidence from the US government that would warrant an outright ban or forced sale.
Although the RESTRICT Act does not specifically name TikTok as its aim, it is evident that this is an effort to make a ban on the video-sharing software legal.
It is not only TikTok, however… (It could extend to VPN bans)
The RESTRICT Act may seem like it is just after TikTok, but it seems like it has a lot more applications than that.
Instead, the regulations apply to a wide variety of digital devices with more than 1 million users in the United States. This encompasses everything from the internet to artificial intelligence programs to machine learning to quantum computers to post-quantum encryption and beyond.
The ACT outlines five classes into which these technologies must fit before they are subject to regulation or other constraints that are outside of dark web personal data misuse that might affect your credit; instead, these are state-level considerations.
For example, consider:
- Disruption or sabotage of information technology and telecommunications services.
- Negative implications on the safety and flexibility of America’s digital economy and essential infrastructure.
- Meddling with, or changing, the outcome or reporting of a federal election in the United States.
- Criminal or coercive actions that undermine democratic institutions or that influence policy and regulation making in favour of foreign opponents.
- Threats to U.S. national security or human lives that is excessive or intolerable.
TikTok is not the only app that the RESTRICT Act applies to. The government is now authorised to monitor all communications, both abroad and at home, and to enforce mitigative measures to safeguard against risks to national security, both in the present and later.
For now, there is no mention of targeting affordable VPNs or premium VPN services. This legislation seems to have more specifics than the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act, another measure under discussion with identical goals. However, the phrasing still looks to be very general and ambiguous, leaving room for misinterpretations.
Others are concerned that centralising so much executive authority in the hands of the US government would only serve to strengthen the influence of powerful US tech interests.
Take Meta as an example. Cambridge Analytica's illegal use of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to influence the 2018 U.S. election was exposed by a major controversy involving the Silicon Valley company in 2018. It was revealed last year that the Big Tech corporation had paid a consultancy funded by Republicans to sow doubt about the popularity of TikTok.
In the United States, Meta's wrongdoings did not lead to a ban or other restrictions. Furthermore, under the RESTRICT Act, the social media behemoth will be given a voice in the deliberations of the advisory group set up to address the threats presented by TikTok and other non-U.S. technology. The inherent bias here is not hard to see, is it?