The Cyberlaw Podcast: Well, Have You Ever Seen Dr. Octopus and Sen. Klobuchar Together?

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 12:15 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

This episode features a deep dive into the National Security Agency’s (NSA) self-regulatory approach to overseas signals intelligence, or SIGINT. Frequent contributor David Kris takes us into the details of the SIGINT Annex that governs NSA’s collections outside the U.S. It turns out to be a surprising amount of fun as we stop to examine the SIGINT turf wars of the 1940s, the intelligence scandals of the 1970s, and how they shaped NSA’s corporate culture.

In the news roundup, Bruce Schneier and I review the privacy commissioner’s determination that Clearview artificial intelligence (AI) violated Canadian privacy law by scraping Canadians’ photos from social media.

Bruce thinks Clearview had it coming; I’m skeptical, since it appears that pretty much everyone has been scraping public face data for their machine learning collections for years.

David Kris explains why a sleepy investment review committee with practically no staff is now being compared to a SWAT team. The short answer is “CFIUS.”

More and more, Gus Hurwitz and I note, Big Tech CEOs are being treated like comic book supervillains in Washington. But have they met their match? Sen. Amy Klobuchar is clearly campaigning to be, if not attorney general, then their nemesis. Like Doc Ock, she’s throwing punch after punch at Big Tech, not just in antitrust legislation but Section 230 reform as well.

We’re not done with SolarWinds yet, and Bruce Schneier thinks that’s fair. He critiques the company for milking profits from its software niche without reinvesting in security.

Gus revives the theme of Big Tech at bay, noting that Australia may start charging Google when it links to Australian news stories and that the new administration seems quite willing to join the rest of the world in imposing more taxes on tech profits.

David covers the flap between India and Twitter, which is refusing to follow an Indian order to suppress several Twitter accounts. That’s probably, I suggest, because there is insufficient proof that the accounts in question belong to Republicans.

IBM seems to be bailing on blockchain, and Bruce thinks it’s about time. In some ways, IBM is the most interesting of tech companies, since it has less of a moat around its business than most and must live by its wits, which are formidable. Bruce offers quantum computing as an example of IBM doing the right things well.

Bruce and Gus help me with a preview of an upcoming interview of Nicole Perlroth as we cover an op-ed pulled from her new book. Bruce also offers a quick assessment of the draft report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. The short version: There isn’t enough there there.

Finally, Gus reminds us that a prophet who predicts the attention economy but then refuses to play by its rules is almost guaranteed to end up as an attention Cassandra, as Michael Goldhaber has.

And more!

Download the 348th Episode (mp3)

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

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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