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.


Continue Reading Episode 311: What the Cyberspace Solarium Report Means for the Private Sector

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.”


Continue Reading Episode 303: Another merger the FTC should block

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?

We interview Ben Buchanan about his new book, The Hacker and the State: Cyber Attacks and the New Normal of Geopolitics. This is Ben’s second book and second interview on the podcast about international conflict and cyber weapons. It’s safe to say that America’s strategic posture hasn’t improved. We face more adversaries with more tools and a considerably greater appetite for cyber adventurism. Ben recaps some of the stories that were undercovered in the US press when they occurred. The second large attack on Ukraine’s grid, for example, was little noticed during the US election of 2016, but it appears more ominous after a recent analysis of the tools used, and perhaps most importantly, those available to the GRU but not used. Meanwhile, the US is not making much progress in cyberspace on the basic requirement of a great power, which is making our enemies fear us.


Continue Reading Episode 301: Ratchet to Disaster

Brad Smith is President of Microsoft and author (with Carol Ann Browne) of Tools and Weapons: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Age. The book is a collection of vignettes of the tech policy battles in the last decade or so. Smith had a ringside seat for most of them, and he recounts what he learned in a compelling and good-natured way in the book – and in this episode’s interview. Starting with the Snowden disclosures and the emotional reaction of Silicon Valley, through the CLOUD Act, Brad Smith and Microsoft displayed a relatively even keel while trying to reflect the interests of its many stakeholders. In that effort, Smith makes the case for more international cooperation in regulating digital technology. Along the way, he discloses how the Cyberlaw Podcast’s own Nate Jones and Amy Hogan-Burney became “Namy,” achieving a fame and moniker inside Microsoft that only Brangelina has achieved in the wider world. Finally, he sums up Microsoft’s own journey in the last quarter century as a recognition that humility is a better long-term strategy than hubris.


Continue Reading Episode 289: Brad Smith on Microsoft’s Journey from Hubris to Humility

If you’ve lost the Germans on privacy, you’ve lost Europe, and maybe the world. That’s the lesson that emerges from my conversation with David Kris and Paul Rosenzweig about the latest declaration that the German interior minister wants to force messaging apps to decrypt chats. This comes at the same time that industry and civil society groups are claiming that GCHQ’s “ghost proposal” for breaking end-to-end encryption should be rejected. The paper, signed by all the social media giants, says that GCHQ’s proposal will erode the trust that users place in Silicon Valley. I argue that that argument is well past its sell-by date.
Continue Reading Episode 266: Will an end to social media trust mean an end to end-to-end encryption?

Our News Roundup leads with the long, slow death of Section 230 immunity. Nick Weaver explains why he thinks social media’s pursuit of engagement has led to a poisonous online environment, and Matthew Heiman replays the astonishing international consensus that Silicon Valley deserves the blame – and the regulation – for all that ails the Internet. The UK is considering holding social media execs liable for “harmful” content on their platforms. Australia has already passed a law to punish social media companies for failure to remove “abhorrent violent material.” And Singapore is happily drafting behind the West, avoiding for once the criticism that its press controls are out of step with the international community. Even Mark Zuckerberg is reading the writing on the wall and asking for regulation. I note that lost in the one-minute hate directed at social media is any notion that other countries shouldn’t be able to tell Americans what they can and can’t read. I also wonder whether the consensus that platforms should be editors will add to conservative doubts about maintaining Section 230 at all – and in the process endanger the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would enshrine Section 230 in US treaty obligations.


Continue Reading Episode 258: The death of Section 230

We are fully back from our August hiatus, and leading off a series of great interviews, I talk with Bruce Schneier about his new book, Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-Connected World. Bruce is an internationally renowned technologist, privacy and security commentator, and someone I respect a lot more than I agree with. But his latest book opens new common ground between us, and we both foresee a darker future for a world that has digitally connected things that can kill people without figuring out a way to secure them. Breaking with Silicon Valley consensus, we see security regulation in the Valley’s future, despite all the well-known downsides that regulation will bring. We also find plenty of room for disagreement on topics like encryption policy and attribution.

Bruce Schneier and Stewart Baker
Bruce Schneier and Stewart Baker


Continue Reading Episode 230: Click Here to Kill Everybody

On May 16, four years after issuing a proposed rule, the FAR Council issued a final cybersecurity-related rule that reaches deep into the supply chain and is applicable to virtually all government contractors and subcontractors.  The rule establishes a new FAR subpart 4.19 and a clause 52.204-21, both of which are entitled “Basic Safeguarding of Covered Contractor Information Systems.”  The rule is effective for solicitations issued on or after June 15, 2016.  A copy is available here.
Continue Reading FAR Council Issues Rule on Basic Safeguarding of Covered Contractor Information Systems