Our interview is with Mara Hvistendahl, investigative journalist at The Intercept and author of a new book, The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage, as well as a deep WIRED article on the least known Chinese AI champion, iFlytek. Mara’s book raises
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.
We begin with a new US measure to secure its supply chain for a critical infrastructure – the bulk power grid. David Kris unpacks a new Executive Order restricting purchases of foreign equipment for the grid.
Nick Weaver, meanwhile, explains the remarkable extent of surveillance built into Xiaomi phones and questions the company’s claim that it was merely acquiring pseudonymous ad-related data like others in the industry.
It wouldn’t be the Cyberlaw Podcast if we didn’t wrangle over mobile phones and the coronavirus. Mark MacCarthy says that several countries – Australia, the UK, and perhaps France – are deviating from the Gapple model for using phones for infection tracing. Several have bought in. India, meanwhile, is planning a much more government-driven approach to using phone apps to combat the pandemic.
In this episode, I interview Thomas Rid about his illuminating study of Russian disinformation, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare. It lays out a century of Soviet, East European, and Russian disinformation, beginning with an elaborate and successful operation against the White Russian expatriate resistance to Bolshevik rule in the 1920s. Rid has dug into recently declassified material using digital tools that enable him to tell previously untold tales – the Soviets’ remarkable success in turning opposition to US nuclear missiles in Europe into a mass movement (and the potential shadow it casts on the legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy), the unimpressive record of US disinformation compared to the ruthless Soviet version, and the fake American lobbyist (and real German agent) who persuaded a German conservative legislator to save Willy Brandt’s leftist government. We close with two very different predictions about the kind of disinformation we’ll see in the 2020 campaign.
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.
If your podcast feed has suddenly become a steady diet of more or less the same COVID-19 stories, here’s a chance to listen to cyber experts talk about what they know about – cyberlaw. Our interview is with Elsa Kania, adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and one of the most prolific students of China, technology, and national security. We talk about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the artificial intelligence ecosystems in the two countries.
The next trade war will be over transatlantic data flows, and it will make the fight with China look like a picnic. That’s the subject of this episode’s interview. The European Court of Justice is poised to go nuclear – to cut off US companies’ access to European customer data unless the US lets European courts and data protection agencies refashion its intelligence capabilities according to standards no European government has ever been required to meet. It is Europe in full neocolonial mode, but it has sailed below the radar, disguised as an abstruse European legal fight. Maury Shenk and I interview Peter Swire on the Schrems cases that look nearly certain to provoke a transatlantic trade and intelligence crisis. Actually, Maury interviews Peter, and I throw bombs into the conversation. But if ever there were a cyberlaw topic that deserves more bomb-throwing, this is it.
This episode features an interview on the Bezos phone flap with David Kaye and Alex Stamos. David is a UN Special Rapporteur and clinical professor of law at UC Irvine who first drew attention to an FTI Consulting report concluding that the Saudis did hack Bezos’ phone. Alex is director of the Stanford Internet Observatory and was the CSO at Facebook; he thinks the technical case against the Saudis needs work, and he calls for a supplemental forensic review of the phone.
This Week in Mistrusting Google: Klon Kitchen points to a Wall Street Journal story about all the ways Google tweaks its search engine to yield results that look machine-made but aren’t. He and I agree that most of these tweaks have understandable justifications – but you have to trust Google not to misuse them. And increasingly no one does. The same goes for Google’s foray into amassing and organizing health data on millions of Americans. It’s a nothing-burger with mayo, unless you mistrust Google. Since mistrusting Google is a growth industry, it’s getting a lot of attention, including from HHS investigators. Matthew Heiman explains, and when he’s done, my money is on Google surviving that investigation comfortably. The capital of mistrusting Google is Brussels, and not surprisingly, Maury Shenk tells us that the EU has forced Google to modify its advertising protocols to exclude data on health-related sites visited by its customers.
Today’s episode opens with a truly disturbing bit of neocolonial judicial lawmaking from the Court of Justice of the European Union. The CJEU ruled that an Austrian court can order Facebook to take down statements about an Austrian politician. Called an “oaf” and a “fascist,” the politician more or less proved the truth of the accusations by suing to keep that and similar statements off Facebook worldwide. Trying to find allies for my proposal to adopt blocking legislation to protect the First Amendment from foreign government interference, I argue that President Trump should support such a law. After all, if he were ever to insult a European politician on Twitter, this ruling could lead to litigation that takes his Twitter account off the air. True, he could criticize the judges responsible for the judgment as “French” or “German” without upsetting CNN, but that would be cold comfort. At last, a legislative and international agenda for the Age of Trump!