Auto, Tech Industries Falsely Claim ‘Right To Repair’ Reforms Are A Threat To National Security

from the you-are-not-serious-people dept

“Right to repair” reform (making it easier and more affordable to repair things you buy) is extremely popular among consumers across both sides of the aisle.

It’s obviously less popular among automakers, tractor builders, tech companies, and other corporations looking to monopolize repair and boost revenues by crushing independent repair shops under their bootheel. Said companies have spent years trying to claim that making it cheaper and easier to repair the things you own poses untold privacy and security threats to the American public.

The auto industry (falsely) claims reforms would result in stalkers getting hold of your private data (you’re to ignore that the auto industry is inherently one of the worst industries in America when it comes to consumer privacy and security standards). Apple claims that right to repair reforms would turn states into dangerous “hacker meccas” (which doesn’t sound all that bad to me, but what do I know).

A bipartisan FTC study found none of these claims were true, yet they’re pretty much all pervasive as auto, agriculture (John Deere is a notorious pest on this front), medical device makers, and tech sector giants try to fend off a rush of popular state and federal reform laws.

But there’s a new wrinkle in the lobbying mix: false claims that right to repair reforms are a threat to national security. That’s the claim being pushed by The Hill (which I won’t link to) by former Trump National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. The Hill has a long history of laundering dodgy corporate lobbying claims in their op-ed section under the guise of original thinking, and this one is no exception.

The key thrust is that making technology more open to consumers and independent repair shops would somehow (gasp) be a massive boon to foreign adversaries:

The Hill adores taking lobbying press releases and then publishing them in the op-ed section without disclosing author financial conflicts of interest. Usually by lawyers whose firms are doing lobbying and policy work for companies and organizations without being transparent about it.

Keep in mind, again, that the auto industry was just caught over-collecting consumer data and then selling it to insurers, and documentably has some of the worst security and privacy standards in all of technology. The reason they get away with it is because Congress is too corrupt to pass a meaningful privacy law or regulate data brokers. The result has been a huge parade of scandals and harm.

That corruption and apathy genuinely poses a national security threat, given lax privacy and security standards are abused by foreign governments (and our own officials looking to expand surveillance and dodge warrants). But you’ll note that, as you’re seeing with a lot of the performative hyperventilation about TikTok, the same folks whining about right to repair don’t really want to talk about that.

If these folks cared about national security they’d combat corruption. They’d pass a meaningful, well-crafted privacy law, ensuring base-level of overarching privacy and security standards. Guidelines imposing stiff penalties on corporations (and executives) that play fast and loose with consumer data, enforced by privacy regulators with the staff, authority, and resources to do their job.

They don’t support those things because they don’t actually care about consumer privacy and security, they (and I know this might come as a shock to some people), exclusively care about making money.

Surveys have generally shown that many people don’t understand what right to repair is, but once they do they very much support stuff like greater data collection transparency, limiting obnoxious software locks making parts replacement difficult or impossible, making parts, tools, and manuals more accessible, and just generally making repair easier and more affordable.

If you hadn’t noticed from the TikTok stuff, it’s trivial for lobbyists to get Congress ginned up about China and national security using little more than scary vibes. And as a growing roster of states sign off on right to repair reform laws, I suspect you’ll see companies leaning more and more on these false national security claims in a flimsy attempt to misinform the public and scuttle consensus.

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