Episode 197:  Interview with Mara Hvistendahl

While the US was transfixed by posturing over the Trump presidency, China has been building the future. Chances are you’ll find one part of that future – social credit scoring – both appalling in principle and irresistible in practice. That at least is the lesson I draw from our interview of Mara Hvistendahl, National Fellow at New America and author of the definitive article on the allure, defects and mechanics of China’s emerging social credit system.

In the news roundup, Nick Weaver dives deep on the Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities while I try to draw policy and litigation implications from the debacle. TL;DR — this is bad, but the class actions will settle for pennies. Oh, and xkcd has all you need to know.

I note that US Customs and Border Protection under Trump has imposed new limitations on border searches of electronic devices. So naturally the press is all “Trump has stepped up border searches aggressively.” No good deed unpunished, as they say.

Maury Shenk explains President Macron’s latest plans to regulate cyberspace in the name of fighting Russian electoral interference and fake news. The Germans, meanwhile, have begun implementing their plan to fight hate speech on the internet. Predictably, it looks as though hate speech is winning.

In the litigation outrage of the month, a company called Keeper (apparently a competitor of LastPass and other password managers) got caught distributing software with a security flaw. So they did what any security-conscious company would – they sued the website that publicized the flaw for libel. It’s a crappy suit, and we should all hope they end up assessed with costs and fees. But the real question is this: Google found and disclosed the flaw, while Microsoft distributed Keeper to its users. When will they file as amici to say that no company with a mature security model files STFU libel suits against people who point out legitimate security problems?  TL;DR – Keeper: Loser.

Finally, Hal Martin pleads guilty to one of twenty-plus counts and takes a ten-year sentence. So far, so ordinary in the world of plea bargaining. But as Nick points out, this wasn’t a bargain.  Martin can still be tried and sentenced on all the other counts. And it effectively stipulates the maximum sentence for the one count he’s pleading guilty to. There must be a strategy here, but we can’t say for sure what it is.

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.