As a part of the Biden Administration’s full-court press to shove misguided antitrust legislation through Congress, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a highly flawed report slamming the practices of top American mobile app store ecosystems. The report fails to effectively provide a critical consideration regarding the effects of progressive antitrust legislation on the safety of consumers who download apps using their mobile devices.
Instead, the Biden Administration uses the veneer of a government report to gin up fake momentum for radical antitrust bills that failed to make it through the 117th Congress. No Republican should heed the Biden Administration’s cynical attempts to expand government control over the economy.
While the report pays lips service to the need for privacy protections, the report’s recommendations do not appropriately balance the vague concept of app store “openness” with protecting the privacy interests of consumers. 63% of Americans with at least one child under 17 years old indicated that increasing privacy protections online would be their number one priority for Congress. In stark contrast, the NTIA’s report recommends that Congress prohibit business restrictions on sideloading, alternative mobile app stores, browsers and web apps – prohibitions that would make mobile devices less safe for all users.
Numerous public comments were issued in the preparation of this report warning about these privacy implications. Thus, the NTIA gave them legally sufficient lip service by qualifying that the implementation of these policies should “retain…appropriate latitude for legitimate privacy, security and safety measures.” However, in their recommendations, they fail to assert any specific recommendations that would allow Congress to employ these policies while keeping users equally safe online.
They attempt to sneak in an explicit endorsement of the wildly flawed American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) and the Open App Markets Act (OAMA) by asserting that both bills “included language that allows the operating system operators to take steps to safeguard security, as well as privacy and safety, in narrow ways, but otherwise would prevent security from being used pretextually to justify anticompetitive behaviors.” This conclusion ignores every warning issued during the last couple of years regarding the inadequacies of these bills’ privacy protections. For example, OAMA includes a requirement that would force businesses “to publicly release their security practices [thereby] giving cyber criminals the tools to get around security firewalls.” No bill that truly protects the security interests of consumers would include a regulation that essentially gives hackers the keys to break into your phones.
The timing of this report clarifies the nature of its conclusions. The Biden Administration recently released an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal attempting to rally Congress in support of legislation to weaken social media companies. Shortly thereafter, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter filed an ethically dubious antitrust lawsuit against Google, given Kanter’s historic ties to Google’s competitors.
The pattern of behavior is clear – President Biden is attempting to rally a Republican House into giving him more powers to use against American internet companies. But in light of the looming House investigation into his administration’s already-well-documented jawboning practices, Republicans giving more of these powers to the Biden Administration would be like Caesar giving a knife to Brutus on the night of his assassination.
Instead of chasing the left’s antitrust red herrings, Republicans need to hold the Biden Administration accountable for their attempts to bully and pressure social media companies to censor conservatives. They should not be distracted by politically motivated reports that tell Congress to pursue solutions that would run counter to the desires of most Americans and only give power to Biden’s authoritarian administration.