Algorithms are at the heart of the Big Data/machine learning/AI changes that are propelling computerized decision-making. In their book, The Ethical Algorithm, Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth, two Computer Science professors at Penn, flag some of the social and ethical choices these changes are forcing upon us. My interview with them touches on many of the hot-button issues surrounding algorithmic decision-making. I disclose my views early: I suspect that much of the fuss over bias in machine learning is a way of smuggling racial and gender quotas and other academic social values into the algorithmic outputs. Michael and Aaron may not agree with that formulation, but the conversation provides a framework for testing it – and leaves me more skeptical about “bias hacking” of algorithmic outputs.


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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.


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Our interview this week is with Hon. Michael Chertoff, my former boss at Homeland Security and newly minted author of Exploding Data: Reclaiming Our Cyber Security in the Digital Age. The conversation – and the book – is wide ranging and shows how much his views on privacy, data, and government have evolved in the decade since he left government. He’s a little friendlier to European notions of data protection, a little more cautious about government authority to access data, and even a bit more open to the idea of letting the victims of cyberattacks leave their networks to find their attackers (under government supervision, that is). It’s a thoughtful, practical meditation on where the digital revolution is taking us and how we should try to steer it.

Michael Chertoff and Stewart Baker
Michael Chertoff and Stewart Baker


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I interview Duncan Hollis, another Steptoe alumnus patrolling the intersection of international law and cybersecurity. With Matt Waxman, Duncan has written an essay on why the US should make the Proliferation Security Initiative a model for international rulemaking for cybersecurity. Since “coalition of the willing” was already taken, we settle on “potluck policy” as shorthand for the proposal. To no one’s surprise, Duncan and I disagree about the value of international law in the field, but we agree on the value of informal, agile, and “potluck” actions on the world stage. In support, I introduce Baker’s Law of International Institutions: “The secretariat always sees the United States as its natural enemy.”

At the end, Duncan mentions in passing his work with Microsoft on international rulemaking, and I throw down on “Brad Smith’s godforsaken proposal.” Brad, if you are willing to come on the podcast to defend that proposal, I’ve promised Duncan a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug.


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Interview with Susan Hennessey and Andrew McCarthy

Episode 195 features an interview with Susan Hennessey of Lawfare and Andrew McCarthy of the National Review.  They walk us through the “unmasking” of US identities in intelligence reports — one of the most divisive partisan issues likely to come up in the re-enactment of section 702 of