The Cyberlaw Podcast: Is Apple Storing Its Dorian Gray Portrait Behind the Great Firewall?

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, May 25, 2021, 9:20 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Paul Rosenzweig kicks off the news roundup by laying out the New York Times’s brutal overview of the many compromises Tim Cook’s Apple has made with an increasingly oppressive Chinese government. There is no way to square Apple’s aggressive opposition to U.S. national security measures with its quiet surrender to much more demanding Chinese measures. I suggest that the disparity could not be greater if Tim Cook were Dorian Gray and storing his portrait behind the Great Firewall. Paul, Jamil Jaffer and I note the tension between Apple’s past claim that it could not legally share data with the Chinese government and its new claim that it solved the problem by turning its data over to a Chinese government-owned corporation.

Ransomware hasn’t stopped making news, Paul tells us, Irish hospitals with the latest to go down. Nate Jones assesses the likelihood (low) that governments will effectively ban the payment of ransomware demands. And Paul points out that, while cryptocurrency may be facilitating crime, at least it’s also warming the planet, as an entire American power plant is taken out of mothballs to power cryptocurrency mining operations.

Governments are increasingly cracking down on cryptocurrency, and Paul gives us one week of news in new regulation: China has reiterated its opposition to unregulated access to crypto.

The IRS is threatening action against unreported transactions in cryptocurrency.

And Hong Kong plans to restrict crypto exchanges to professional investors.

Another 60+ pages from the FISA court approving the executive branch’s section 702 procedures.

With Nate on the job, you don’t need to read it all, or rely on the ideologically motivated criticism of privacy groups. Nate tells us that in approving the 702 procedures the FISA court has much less leeway than a court usually does in reviewing federal agency action (with a hat tip to a good analysis by NSA alum George Croner).

Jamil bemoans the enthusiasm sweeping Europe for sticking it to US (but not Chinese) tech companies under a variety of competition law theories.

Google has been fined just over €100 million by Italy’s antitrust watchdog for abuse of a dominant market position in Android auto apps.

Germany is readying big guns for an attack on Amazon’s market.

I point out that American policyholders seem to share this enthusiasm, at least judging from the questions the presiding judge in Epic v. Apple posed this week to Tim Cook.

Nate and I explore Apple’s apparent decision to let Parler back into the app store. (And, given the enthusiasm for regulating such dual-facing markets on antitrust grounds, that decision would be wise.) But Apple is still demanding that Parler block speech that Parler doesn’t think it should be blocking.

We wrap up with a few quick hits:

Looking for a cheap way to defeat ransomware? Brian Krebs has a “might not work but what do you have to lose?” Idea: install a Russian keyboard layout on your computer (although with my luck, the ransomware will translate all my files into Russian).

Andy Greenberg has a good retrospective on the seeds. OG supply chain hack: the Chinese theft of RSA’s core security.

Dangling the other shoe: The UK’s head of MI5 isn’t mincing words. Ken McCallum is accusing Facebook of giving a ‘free pass’ to terrorists by preparing to introduce end-to-end crypto on its messaging app. Sooner or later, this is going to end in tears.

And we all agree that the Biden administration was lucky to persuade Matt Olsen to leave Uber to become head of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

And more!

Stewart A. Baker is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. He returned to the firm following 3½ years at the Department of Homeland Security as its first Assistant Secretary for Policy. He earlier served as general counsel of the National Security Agency.

Subscribe to Lawfare