Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed a bill banning TikTok, marking the first state-level prohibition of the social media app. The law – SB419, set to take effect in January – cites data privacy concerns related to the Chinese Communist Party as the primary reason for the ban.
The law specifically targets TikTok, prohibiting its operation within Montana. Violators, including app stores hosting the app, could face daily fines of $10,000. Despite these stringent measures, there is currently no evidence that the Chinese government, linked to TikTok through its parent company ByteDance, has accessed personal information of U.S.-based users.
In response, TikTok has pledged to defend its Montana users’ rights, arguing that the ban infringes on First Amendment rights. The ban has also drawn criticism from the ACLU and NetChoice, a technology trade group that counts TikTok as a member, with each labeling the ban as unconstitutional.
What I find remarkable about this is the fact that we are in an enduring cyberwar with China as well as several other countries, to say nothing of motivated hackers and their related communities. It is beyond naive to think that China would need to use TikTok data to accomplish what the Montana Governor fears.
There are no meaningful federal laws protecting our data from falling into the hands of hostile governments. There are robust legitimate data marketplaces (and even more robust illegitimate data marketplaces) where everything about everyone can be bought and sold.
If Gov. Gianforte was getting good advice, he’d stop the nonsense with TikTok and worry about how generative AI is going to take advantage of the ubiquitous availability of personal data that no one ever talks about (credit score data, behavioral data, location data, etc.). This wealth of readily available data will empower autonomous agents to “test and learn” how best to persuade people to do almost anything. We will see countless numbers of companies start using this super-powered ad-tech this year. Relentless self-reinforcing automation is “the” overwhelming threat to our way of life, and (at the moment) we are basically defenseless against it. As for the TikTok ban? Pure political theater.
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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.