The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


"If I save Earth, you're gonna owe me."

Episode 247 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


So says the remarkable Jeff Jonas, CEO of Senzing. And he's got a claim to be doing just that. A data scientist before data science was cool, Jeff has used his technical skills and an intuitive grasp of complex data problems to stop card counters in Las Vegas and terrorists targeting the US, and then to launch an initiative making voter registration more accurate and widespread. Most recently, in the course of an effort to improve maritime security around Singapore, he also found a key to identifying asteroids that are about to collide with each other and head off on a new course (one that might intersect with, well, ours).

The media has been hyping a strikingly bad magistrate judge's opinion giving 5th Amendment protection to biometric phone security. This leads Gus Hurwitz and me to question why Congress ever promoted US magistrates to "magistrate judges" in the first place. We suggest striking the word "judge" from the title given to these Article I judicial aides; call it the Truth in Judging Act.

Congress and the President can't even agree on a compromise that would end the partial government shutdown. So what genius decided that our security from terrorist attacks should depend on Congress and the President agreeing every couple of years on yet another part of our counterterrorism system? Like it or not, though, 2019 will feature another cliffhanger debate over several national security provisions of FISA that are scheduled to come to an end unless renewed. Jamil Jaffer and David Kris talk about the provisions and possible outcomes. I plead for a compromise that takes seriously the Trumpist concern about partisan abuse of the law.

I suspect the government would have imposed serious fines on the owner of EDGAR for enabling a new form of insider trading -- if the SEC didn't own EDGAR itself. Jamil and Gus debate the harder question: How can hackers with access to guaranteed market moving info manage to make only $4 million in six months of trading?

The Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel has reversed an Obama-era interpretation limiting the scope of federal criminal laws governing online gambling. David provides the background; I introduce our listeners to the Baptist-bootlegger coalition.

If you would like to hear more from Jeff Jonas and you'll be in London on January 29, be sure to attend his talk, "AI for Entity Resolution," at the SAGE Ocean speaker series. Event details can be found here.

Download the 247th Episode (mp3).

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  1. "We suggest striking the word "judge" from the title given to these Article I judicial aides; call it the Truth in Judging Act."

    Hear, hear.

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  3. The Trumpists do indeed have a track record of partisan abuse of the law, though that is more a function of their handlers than any native capacity to comprehend what the law is and what the options are.

  4. I don't normally comment on these cyberlaw posts, but want to raise an objection to characterizing objections to FISA renewal as "partisan abuse."

    FISA was controversial when enacted. It was intended as an emergency measure, and got a sunset provision requiring Congress to act periodically to renew it.

    The proper balance between security and privacy/liberty in FISA is a classic political controversy.

    Whichever side is right, airing disagreements of this sort through legislation is never an "abuse" of the political process. People who think FISA shouldn't be renewed may be wrong, but they are using the legislative process exactly as intended

    I frequently object on this blog when people accuse those they disagree with of dishonesty, abuse, etc.

    Casual undermining of legitimate opposition, casual association of disagreement with crime, abuse, or fraud, undermines the democratic process and destabilizes republican government. In its extreme it becomes advocacy for a coup and jailing one's political opponents. In many countries, such talk has led to exactly that.

    Law professors ought to know better. You have a responsibility, not just to win on the one issue before you, but to preserve the system. This means treating those you disagree with with some modicum of respect, and resolving differences rationally, through persuasion, not invective.

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