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🤷🏻♀️ Act Week
The US proposes antitrust legislation for app stores | The EARN IT Act threatens encryption | The DOJ seizes some bitcoin
Hello and welcome to this multinational, global, worldwide newsletter.
This week was 🤷♀️ sort of okay I guess? The reasons:
Us lawmakers are pushing the EARN IT Act once again — and it literally disincentivises encryption
Yet another act: the Open App Markets Act (shit name) will, apparently, put an end to the Google/Apple app store duopoly (thank you Shad Jahangir for pointing this one out to me).
The Department of Justice in the US — as in, a central government agency — has ‘recovered’ some ‘stolen’ bitcoin
⚱️ Learn it, earn it, and yearn it (as in, yearn for encryption).
The US seem to really be into their ‘acts’ this week. First off we have the EARN IT act, which is a proposed amendment to section 230.
What does section 230 do again? Basically, if your platform is made of user-generated content (Youtube, Facebook, etc), you are not liable for any illegal content that may be posted — because technically you are not the publisher; the users are.
And what will the EARN IT Act do? Make it so that if the content in question is child sexual abuse material (CSAM), the platform IS liable for this. So that means, platforms need to start moderating content for this kind of material, so that they don’t get sued.
Okay fine, but here’s the thing: this completely disincentivises encryption. If someone is using an end-to-end encrypted service — like WhatsApp — to share child porn, how is anyone going to know about it? Platforms/law enforcement will literally have to break encryption to see the contents of private messages, so that they can verify that it’s CSAM.
So yes, as usual, lawmakers either do not understand how damaging their silly little laws are, AND/OR they are bending over backwards for a back door into our devices — TYPICAL. I just want to quickly remind everyone that ‘but it’s to keep children safe!’ is also an argument that is used to support facial recognition — that other thing we really don’t fucking need.
☝️ In fact, this Politico piece pointed out the mere fact that a platform uses encryption could be used against them in court under EARN IT, because it would leave them ‘wilfully blind’ to potential CSAM. You know, just like how we are all ‘wilfully blind’ to any illegal activity that might be happening behind closed doors because we don’t wear x-ray goggles all day...
🛍️ Let’s open app the market...
Next up is the Open App Markets Act. This one is all about diluting the power of app stores by introducing some new rules that probably should have been introduced about five years ago, haha oh well.
This has definitely been bubbling away for ages — just think back to that split ruling in the Apple VS Epic trial; this brought to the surface all the extremely unfair rules that Apple impose on app developers, such as restricting the way they conduct in-app purchases — and then somehow being allowed to take a cut of every one??
How is the Open App Markets Act going to put an end to Apple and Google’s tight maniacal grasp on our app consumption? WELL, like this: if you have an app store that has more than 50 million US users, you must do the following:
Let developers use their own in-app payment systems
Let developers offer better prices on other stores
Let developers contacts their own customers about offers (god this shit is basic — app stores really are the worst)
Stop gathering analytics on apps in the store in order to build competitors
Preference your own apps in searches
This is stuff that Apple and Google just LOVE doing, so naturally they are not into this proposed legislation, and will probably lobby the shit out of it. Not at all surprising, because there are other parts of the legislation that are aimed solely at those who control app stores which sit on top of their own operating systems (so... Apple and Google). And those parts would be...
Allowing users to install third-party apps without using the ‘official’ app store of their operating system (I touched on this a couple of weeks ago)
Allowing users to set third party apps and app-stores (!) as defaults
Allowing users to uninstall or hide native apps
All of this of course would be a game-changer. There are good AND bad parts: app store rules are restrictive and unfair, but they do protect us from certain kinds of malicious software — stuff that you might download without realising, if you didn’t know any better]. They do not protect us from scams, however — because sometimes those scams benefit the app store owners. E.g. if you pay £12 a week for an app that does nothing, Apple/Google really don’t have to care about that — they are getting a cut of that money.
Personally, I think we should just eliminate the concept of the ‘app store’ all together. The invention of the smart phone has led to a lot of skewed ideas about the relationship between software and hardware. On a regular computer, you can just download files and applications whenever you want, however you want. You can download files and that you can’t even open, technically. Phones are just pocket computers, and yet we cannot do any of this stuff. Besides company greed, there is actually no reason why we should not be able to download software onto our phones in the same way we do with laptop and desktop computers.
🏦 Let’s end on something light and silly
Perhaps you remember the colossal 2016 bitcoin hack: 119k bitcoin (then worth approx $60m) was ‘stolen’ from the exchange (bank) Bitfinex. And then, even though Bitfinex’s negligence had nothing to do with them, Bitfinex distributed these losses amongst their users — this is pure bullshit.
Some further bullshit from this week: The department of justice in the US have now seized MOST of this bitcoin, now worth $3.5bn.
Honestly, I am only pointing this out because I just love it when the crypto community — people who apparently champion decentralisation and ‘freedom’ from central government — benefit from when law enforcement intervene. It’s almost as if all they care about is money?
That’s all for this week — have a great weekend and keep it REAL