This episode features an in-depth (and occasionally contentious) interview with Bart Gellman about his new book, Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, which can be found on his website and on Amazon. I’m tagged in the book as having been sharply critical of Gellman’s Snowden stories, and I live
The Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s report was released into the teeth of the COVID-19 crisis and hasn’t attracted the press it probably deserved. But the commissioners included four sitting Congressmen who plan to push for adoption of its recommendations. And the Commission is going to be producing more material – and probably more press attention – over the coming weeks. In this episode, I interview Sen. Angus King, co-chair of the Commission, and Dr. Samantha Ravich, one of the commissioners.
We focus almost exclusively on what the Commission’s recommendations mean for the private sector. The Commission has proposed a remarkably broad range of cybersecurity measures for business. The Commission recommends a new products liability regime for assemblers of final goods (including software) who don’t promptly patch vulnerabilities. It proposes two new laws requiring notice not only of personal data breaches but also of other significant cyber incidents. It calls for a federal privacy and security law – without preemption. It updates Sarbanes-Oxley to include cybersecurity principles. And lest you think the Commission is in love with liability, it also proposed liability immunities for critical infrastructure owners operating under government supervision during a crisis. We cover all these proposals, plus the Commission’s recommendation of a new role for the Intelligence Community in providing support to critical US companies.
This is a bonus episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast – a freestanding interview of Noah Phillips, a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. The topic of the interview is whether privacy and antitrust analysis should be merged, especially in the context of Silicon Valley and its social media platforms. Commissioner Phillips, who has devoted considerable attention to the privacy side of the FTC’s jurisdiction, recently delivered a speech on the topic and telegraphed his doubts in the title: “Should We Block This Merger? Some Thoughts on Converging Antitrust and Privacy.” Subject to the usual Cyberlaw Podcast injunction that he speaks only for himself and not his institution or relatives, Commissioner Phillips lays out the very real connections between personal data and industry dominance as well as the complexities that come from trying to use antitrust to solve privacy problems. Among the complexities: the key to more competition among social media giants could well be more sharing between companies of the personal data that fuels their network effects, and corporate sharing of personal data is what privacy advocates have spent a decade crusading against. It’s a wide-ranging interview, touching on, among other things, whether antitrust can be used to solve Silicon Valley’s censorship problem (he’s skeptical) and what he thinks of suggestions in Europe that perhaps the Schrems problem can be solved by declaring that post-CCPA California meets EU data privacy standards. Commissioner Phillips is bemused; I conclude that this is just Europe seeking revenge for President Trump’s Brexit support by promoting “Calexit.”
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.
There’s a fine line between legislation addressing deepfakes and legislation that is itself a deep fake. Nate Jones reports on the only federal legislation addressing the problem so far. I claim that it is well short of a serious regulatory effort – and pretty close to a fake law.
In contrast, India seems serious about imposing liability on companies whose unbreakable end-to-end crypto causes harm, at least to judge from the howls of the usual defenders of such crypto. David Kris explains how the law will work. I ask why Silicon Valley gets to impose the externalities of encryption-facilitated crime on society without consequence when we’d never allow tech companies to say that society should pick up the tab for their pollution because their products are so cool. In related news, the FBI may be turning the Pensacola military terrorism attack into a slow-motion replay of the San Bernardino fight with Apple, this time with more top cover.
This week Maury Shenk guest hosts the podcast.
Even with a “phase one” trade deal with China apparently agreed, there’s of course plenty still at stake between China and the US in the tech space. Nate Jones reports on the Chinese government order for government offices to purge foreign software and equipment within three years and the plans of Arm China to develop chips using “state-approved” cryptography. Nick Weaver and I agree that, while there are some technical challenges on this road, there’s a clear Chinese agenda to lose dependency on US suppliers.
We open the episode with David Kris’s thoughts on the two-years-late CFIUS investigation of TikTok, its Chinese owner, ByteDance, and ByteDance’s US acquisition of the lip-syncing company Musical.ly. Our best guess is that this unprecedented reach-back investigation will end in a more or less precedented mitigation agreement.
Camille Stewart talks about a little-known national security risk: China’s propensity to acquire US technology through the bankruptcy courts and the many ways in which the bankruptcy system isn’t set up to combat improper tech transfers. Published by the Journal of National Security Law & Policy, Camille’s paper is available here. Camille has enjoyed great success in her young career working with the Transformative Cyber Innovation Lab at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as a Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America, and as a 2019 Cyber Security Woman of the Year, among other achievements. We talk at the end of the session about life and advancement as an African American woman in cybersecurity.
Want to hear more from Camille on this topic? She’ll be speaking Friday, September 13, at a lunch event hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. She’ll be joined by fellow panelists Giovanna Cinelli, Jamil Jaffer, and Harvey Rishikof, along with moderator Dr. Samantha Ravich. The event will be livestreamed at www.fdd.org/events. If you would like to learn more about the event, please contact Abigail Barnes at FDD. If you are a member of the press, please direct your inquiries to email@example.com.
Our guests this week are Paul Scharre from the Center for a New American Security and Greg Allen from the Defense Department’s newly formed Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. Paul and Greg have a lot to say about AI policy, especially with an eye toward national security and strategic competition. Greg sheds some light on DOD’s activity, and Paul helps us understand how the military and policymakers are grappling with this emerging technology. But at the end of the day, I want to know: Are we at risk of losing the AI race with China? Paul and Greg tell me not all hope’s lost – and how we can retain technological leadership.