J.P. Morgan once responded to President Teddy Roosevelt’s charge that he’d violated federal antitrust law by saying, “If we have done anything wrong, send your man to see my man, and we’ll fix it up.” That used to be the gold standard for monopolist arrogance in dealing with government, but Google and Apple have put J.P. Morgan in the shade with their latest instruction to the governments of the world: You can’t use our app to trace COVID-19 infections unless you promise not to use it for quarantine or law enforcement purposes. They are only able to do this because the two companies have more or less 99% of the phone OS market. That’s more control than Morgan had of US railways, and their dominance apparently allows them to say, “If you think we’ve done something wrong, don’t bother to send your man; ours is too busy to meet.” Nate Jones and I discuss the question of Silicon Valley overreach in this episode. (In that vein, I apologize unreservedly to John D. Rockefeller, to whom I mistakenly attributed the quote.) The sad result is that a promising technological adjunct to contact tracing has been delayed and muddled by ideological engineers to the point where it isn’t likely to be deployed and used in a timely way.


Continue Reading Episode 315: Google to Washington: “Send your man to see my man. And we’ll stiff him.”

Nick Weaver and I debate Sens. Graham and Blumenthal’s EARN IT Act, a proposal to require that social media firms follow best practices on preventing child abuse. If they don’t, they won’t get full Section 230 immunity from liability for recklessly allowing the abuse. Nick thinks the idea is ill-conceived and doomed to fail. I think there’s a core of sense to the proposal, which simply asks that Silicon Valley firms who are reckless about child abuse on their networks pay for the social costs they’re imposing on society. Since the bill gives the attorney general authority to modify the best practices submitted by a commission of industry, academic, and civic representatives, critics are sure that the final product will reduce corporate incentives to offer end-to-end encryption.


Continue Reading Episode 298: Bill Barr as Bogeyman

If the surgeon about to operate on you has been disciplined for neglecting patients, wouldn’t you like to know? Well, the mandarins of the European Union privacy lobby beg to differ. Google has been told by a Dutch court not to index that story, and there seems to have been a six-month lag in disclosing even the court ruling. That’s part of this week’s News Roundup. Gus Hurwitz and I are appalled. I tout my long-standing view that in the end, privacy law just protects the privileged. Gus agrees.

The interview is with John Carlin, author of Dawn of the Code War. It’s a great inside story of how we came to indict China’s hacker-spies for attacking US companies.


Continue Reading Episode 248: Tomayto, Tomahto: Right to be Forgotten Meets Right to Die

Nate Jones, David Kris, and I kick off 2019 with a roundup of the month of news since we took our Christmas break. First, we break down the utterly predictable but undismissable Silicon Valley claim that the administration’s new export control strategy will hurt the emerging AI industry.


Continue Reading Episode 245: “Pay no attention to the guns, the flashbang, and the handcuffs. You’re free to go at any time.”