The Cyberlaw Podcast: Brad Smith on Microsoft’s Journey from Hubris to Humility

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 11:58 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

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.

Turning to the news, it looks like the surveillance renewal debate will be pushed to March 15 instead of Dec. 15. That’s thanks to impeachment, David Kris assesses. We summarize what’s up for renewal before turning to the hottest of FISA topics: The Justice Department’s inspector general report on bias in the FBI’s investigation of the Trump-Russia connection in 2016. All we’re getting at this point is self-serving leaks, but it sounds as though the report is finding real misbehavior only in the lower rungs of the Bureau. The IG finds no political bias at the top, but criminal charges against one lawyer look possible.

David sums up China’s Vulnerability Equities Process: “You can disclose the vulns when MSS is done using them.”

Nick Weaver, meanwhile, tells us that China’s dependence on U.S.-origin AI frameworks is more a matter of bragging rights rather than real disadvantage—unless you think that being unable to deny access to GitHub is a real disadvantage. And if you’re Xi Jinping, you might.

Nate Jones, already immortalized as the quiet half of Namy, reveals that Iran’s APT33 is targeting industrial control systems—and that Iran has shut down its Internet for several days in the face of civil unrest. I suggest that we keep track of the regime-essential links that stay up—so we can take them down if Iran decides to use its new upstream access to industrial control systems.

Nate and I ask why a majority of the UN General Assembly bought into a Russian proposal for a “cybercrime” resolution. Hint: Many of the governments that support it couldn’t survive a democratic election and a free press.

Speaking of Russians, Nick flags a Brian Krebs explainer on why the Russians really, really didn’t want their accused cybercriminal extradited from Israel to the US.

David and I gape in wonder at the chutzpah of the Indiana police force that accused a suspected drug dealer of theft for removing a police GPS tracker from his car—and then used that theft to justify a search of his home.

And in quick hits, Nick covers the new Russian law that prohibits sale of devices without preinstalled “alternative” software. And Nick and I debate the value and legality of Uber’s plan to introduce audio recordings during rides.

Join Steptoe for a complimentary webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 10. We’ll be talking about the impacts on retailers of the newly implemented California Consumer Privacy Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. This is a fast-moving area of the law; we can keep you up to date. You can find out more and register here.

Download the 289th Episode (mp3).

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of the firm.

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.

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