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Mar 4, 2023

Characterizing the popular TikTok app as a modern-day “Trojan Horse” because its parent company, ByteDance, is based in China, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Michal McCaul, aa Texas Republican, introduced the “Deterring America's Foreign Adversaries Act, which would ban TikTok in the United States. Democrats oppose the bill, saying it would go too far in abridging the Freedom of Speech. The American Civil Liberties Union is also pushing back against the bill. Federal courts have previously held that blocking TikTok would violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which limits the president’s ability to block informational and personal communications.


In the coming weeks, TikTok is expected to release a new feature that notifies kids when they have been using the app over a specified period of time, after which kids can decide if they want to stay logged in. For kids under 13, they’ll need a password from mom and dad to keep using TikTok after the allotted time has passed. Critics of these measures say they are meaningless since kids can still claim to be adults when they set up TikTok accounts.

A new initiative from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has a new app called ‘Take it Down’ that helps kids confidentially remove nude images of themselves that exist online, shared when they were minors. The app is available for download at It doesn’t work with TikTok yet. However, it does work with Facebook, Instagram, OnlyFans, and PornHub.

The White House last week released what it is calling a New Initial Blueprint to address online harassment and abuse. The Executive Summary, prepared by a Task Force the Biden Harris Administration established last year, includes provisions for preventing online harassment and abuse, supporting victims, conducting research, and holding platforms accountable.

And as prosecutors in states in which abortion has become illegal continue to push for more access to reproductive health data from women seeking abortions, some lawmakers are seeking privacy legislation more suited for our post-Roe v. Wade world.  One bill, introduced by Democratic Representative Sara Jacobs from California – the SAFER Health Act – would require patients to provide consent to permit healthcare providers to share  data about abortions or miscarriages, even if the data are being sought via court order. 


And democratic senators Mazie Hirono, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren  also introduced a bill – the Upholding Protections for Health and Online Location Data (UPHOLD) Privacy Act - that would also restrict access to patient location data. The new bill comes amid a decision by Walgreens –America’s  second-largest pharmacy chain – to stop selling abortion prescriptions throughout the United States, even where abortion remains legal. The decision dealt a blow to abortion rights activists. 

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a $7.5 million settlement to mental health app BetterHealth for sharing patients’ data with marketers even after telling the patients Betterhealth would protect the data.


The FTC has also commenced looking into how landlords may use algorithms to screen tenants.


In other news …


The Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Homeland Security issued a report showing  federal law enforcement officials with Immigrations & Customs Enforcement, as well as  other federal agencies, didn’t follow established protocols for using cell-site simulators – or Stingrays – to pursue subjects.


Police in the Commonwealth of Virginia are back to using facial recognition software – but the data collection is limited to certain circumstances, which don’t include scanning faces in real-time.


Algorithms are starting to decide which employees to lay off.


And Google has released its civil rights review.



House Committee Advances Bill To Ban TikTok
TikTok isn’t really limiting kids’ time on its app
Take It Down
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Initial Blueprint for the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse | The White House
Post-Roe, prosecutors can seek unprotected reproductive health data
FTC says online counseling service BetterHelp pushed people into handing over health information – and broke its privacy promises
Democrats' New Bill Could Be the First Real US Privacy Law
AI is starting to pick who gets laid off
Tenant screening practices: the FTC wants to learn more
Police use of facial recognition tech resumes with guardrails
Report: ICE and the Secret Service Conducted Illegal Surveillance of Cell Phones
Home Depot, Ring, others allegedly record website visitors' online communications
Google releases civil rights review, caving to years of pressure