Opinion | The RESTRICT act has consequences

The RESTRICT act will endanger internet privacy if passed.

Chris Klepach, Opinions Columnist

Since I began using the internet, it has been post-Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act was enacted following 911 to intercept dangerous communications.  The government has the authority to be able to track almost everything done on any technological device using an internet connection.

Now, bill S.686, also known as the RESTRICT act, appears to potentially accelerate government surveillance of domestic internet users.

Jake Sullivan, White House national security advisor, described a potential effect of the RESTRICT act.

“This legislation would provide the U.S.  government with new mechanisms to mitigate the national security risks posed by high-risk technology businesses operating in the United States,” Sullivan said in a press release. “It would strengthen our ability to address discreet risks posed by individual transactions.”

These new mechanisms include criminalizing virtual private networks and potentially digitally owned assets. This is regardless of proof of danger and would affect anyone currently using a VPN.

This is best seen in Section 2 under “Definitions” regarding the term “covered holding,” the subject of which can criminalize those involved.

“The term ‘covered holding’ means, regardless of how or when such holding was or will be obtained…Directly or indirectly… in an ICTS [ covered holding entity,” the bill reads.

Under this definition,, the government would have the power to apply its jurisdiction toward anyone that is involved in internet commerce with foreign adversaries. It would give congress power to ban or force the selling of specific software and equipment if they deem it to be spying risk.

While not being explicitly stated, there are concerns that the RESTRICT act would ban the use of VPN. In the bill, they detail banning services “designed or intended to evade or circumvent the application of this Act”.

If it does ban VPNs from use, this can severely obstruct the privacy of up to two-thirds of U.S. internet users who use those services for not only privacy, but also for the peace of mind that comes with security and access to content within streaming services that are not allowed country-to-country.

The public has had growing concern over internet privacy. According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, roughly six out of 10 of those in the U.S. believe it isn’t possible to use the internet without having their data collected by not only companies, but the government too.

An additional 66 percent of Americans  believe that potential risks of government data tracking outweigh benefits.

As Iowans, we should contact Sen. Chuck Grassley, who currently is a co-sponsor of the RESTRICT act, which has only just been introduced to congress and hasn’t passed the senate. If we value our internet freedom in a world that has become more reliant on the internet than ever, then we must demonstrate that.

We must urge Grassley of the consequences of this bill as stated earlier. The internet has become a home for many voices, but they should only be heard by our government when we, the people, decide

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.