Will an end to social media trust mean an end to end-to-end encryption?

Episode 266 of the Cyberlaw Podcast

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

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 suggest that maybe that particular argument is well past its sell-by date.

Speaking of trust, Paul outlines the latest tit-for-tat in the Silicon Curtain coming down between the US and China, as that country announces plans to publish an "unreliable entities" list of US companies. I note that the same spirit seems to be animating the announcement that China and Russia are transitioning their militaries from Microsoft Windows to other operating systems. Talk about a bonanza for the NSA: Just the coding errors alone will sustain its hackers for a generation – even in the unlikely event that the Chinese and Russians resist the temptation to seed the system with backdoors aimed at their erstwhile partners.

Maury Shenk highlights the latest German effort to regulate "broadcasting" of content on the Internet, which the German authority says will mandate transparency and diversity. I think it's transparently about shoring up the German establishment, a view hardly contradicted by the ham-handed way CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer responded to the CDU's drubbing in the EU elections. The losses were widely attributed to YouTube influencers who urged young voters to reject the main parties. The solution, AKK suggested, was more regulation of YouTube influencers. Ja, natürlich.

David brings us up to date on Iran's latest effort to engage in social media manipulation and Facebook's response.

Alicia Loh parses a DC Circuit ruling that all the White House has to do to comply with laws on keeping records of official communications is send out a memo. That obligation was satisfied, the court ruled, by a memo telling White House staff who use "vanishing" messaging apps to take screenshots of any official communications and preserve the messages. Alicia is practically the only member of our panel who even knows how to take a screenshot on a phone, which suggests that White House staff compliance might be, well, underwhelming.

Maury gives us a quick update on US states imitating GDPR. Short version: Watch California and then New York.

And in a lightning round, I am struck by the sight of an FTC commissioner begging the Ninth Circuit not to uphold the FTC's position in the Qualcomm case on appeal. Maury and I note the growing demand in Silicon Valley companies for mass contract labor spurred by the need to train AI. And Paul and I speculate on the probability of antitrust cases against Google and Amazon. It's been a long cold Chicago winter for antitrust plaintiffs, but a change in the climate may be coming.

Download the 266th Episode (mp3).

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  1. Alicia is practically the only member of our panel who even knows how to take a screenshot on a phone, which suggests that White House staff compliance might be, well, underwhelming.

    Why project your ignorance upon other people? It isn’t difficult to learn how to take a screenshot on a phone. Here’s a link to a search engine:

    http://duckduckgo.com/?q=how+to+take+a+screenshot+on+a+phone

    1. Its Stewart Baker. He doesn’t even know what a iphone is let alone how to take a screen capture off of one.

      1. You just use the camera feature of a second phone…

    2. Because he was those people.

  2. Today’s social media (and some related businesses, including providers of internet and banking services) have broken faith with the consuming public by excluding a broad range of political views in order to disenfranchise their followers, by engaging in fraud schemes such as shadowbanning, and by cooperating with governments to violate rights such as free speech and privacy.

    These practices need to be banned, at least when carried out by companies above a certain size. Until and unless that happens, we are living in a cyberpunk novel, and the only institutions that will go on existing are the ones that need to be destroyed.

    1. These practices need to be banned, at least when carried out by companies above a certain size.

      Is there any regulation that Republicans and Libertarians don’t love to impose on private companies?

    2. They’re private companies using their resources as they see fit. THIS MUST BE STOPPED AT ALL COSTS!!!

    3. I’m pretty sure I’m still enfranchised.

  3. “GCHQ’s proposal will erode the trust that users place in Silicon Valley. I suggest that maybe that particular argument is well past its sell-by date.”

    Depends on how you measure it. Do you go by whether or not people say they trust the social media companies, or by whether or not they continue to hand over their personal data to the social media companies?

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