The NSA’s use of call detail records to spot cross-border terror plots has a long history. It began life in deepest secrecy, became public (and controversial) after Edward Snowden’s leaks and was then reformed in the USA Freedom Act. Now it’s up for renewal, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, or PCLOB, has weighed in with a deep report on how the program has functioned – and why NSA has suspended it. In this episode I interview Travis LeBlanc, a PCLOB Member, about the report and the program. Travis is a highly effective advocate, bringing me around on several issues, including whether the program should be continued and even whether the authority to revive it would be useful. It’s a superb guide to a program whose renewal is currently being debated (against a March 15 deadline!) in Congress.


Continue Reading Episode 305: NSA’s call detail records program: Travis LeBlanc of the PCLOB

This episode features a lively (and – fair warning – long) interview with Daphne Keller, Director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center. We explore themes from her recent paper on regulation of online speech. It turns out that more or less everyone has an ability to restrict users’ speech online, and pretty much no one has both authority and an interest in fostering free-speech values. The ironies abound: Conservatives may be discriminated against, but so are Black Lives Matter activists. In fact, it looks to me as though any group that doesn’t think it’s the victim of biased content moderation would be well advised to scream as loudly about censorship or the others for fear of losing the victimization sweepstakes. Feeling a little like a carny at the sideshow, I serve up one solution for biased moderation after another, and Daphne methodically shoots them down. Transparency? None of the companies is willing, and the government may have a constitutional problem forcing them to disclose how they make their moderation decisions. Competition law? A long haul, and besides, most users like a moderated Internet experience. Regulation? Only if we take the First Amendment back to the heyday of broadcast regulation. As a particularly egregious example of foreign governments and platforms ganging up to censor Americans, we touch on the CJEU’s insufferable decision encouraging the export of European defamation law to the US – with an extra margin of censorship to keep the platform from any risk of liability. I offer to risk my Facebook account to see if that’s already happening.


Continue Reading Episode 302: Will the First Amendment Kill Free Speech in America?

In this week’s episode, our guest is Rebecca Richards, NSA’s director of privacy and civil liberties.  We ask the tough questions:   Is her title an elaborate hoax or is she the busiest woman on the planet?  How long will it be before privacy groups blame the Seattle Seahawks’ loss on NSA’s policy of intercepting