The Volokh Conspiracy

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Udderly indefensible facial recognition scandal may drive new privacy mooovement

Episode 262 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


Have the Chinese hired American lawyers to vet their cyberespionage tactics – or just someone who cares about opsec? Probably the latter, and if you're wondering why China would suddenly care about opsec, look no further than Supermicro's announcement that it will be leaving China after a Bloomberg story claiming that the company's supply chain was compromised by Chinese actors. Nick Weaver, Joel Brenner, and I doubt the Bloomberg story, but it has cost Supermicro a lot of sales – and even if it isn't true this time, the scale and insouciance of past Chinese cyberespionage make it inherently believable. Hence the company's shift to other sources (and, maybe, a new caution on the part of Chinese government hackers).

GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) may be the Dumb and Dumber of privacy law, but neither is going away. And for the next six months, California's legislature will be struggling against a deadline to make sense of the CCPA. Meegan Brooks gives us an overview.

But we in Washington can't get too smug about California's deadline-driven dysfunction. Congress also faces a year-end deadline to renew the Section 215 program, and even the executive branch hasn't decided what it wants. Joel takes us through the program's history, its snake-bitten implementation, and the possible outcomes in Congress.

This week in Silicon Valley content control: Facebook dropped the link-ban hammer on Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, and Milo Yiannopoulos for being "dangerous." But did it really? Once again, I volunteer to put my Facebook access at risk by testing Facebook's censorship engine – posting a different Infowars story there every day. Not because I love the conspiracy-mongering Alex Jones but because banning links is a bad idea. (Among other things, you can't really pile links up and burn them in cinematic pyres at rallies.) But both Facebook and Jones may have a codependent interest in overstating the ban, because as of Day 4 of my experiment, my Facebook account is still alive and well, as are the Infowars links.

The FBI has accused US scientists of sending intellectual property to China, running shadow labs, and (this part really appalls Nick) corrupting the peer review process at NIH. Sadly, Science magazine buys into easy claims that the flap is born of racial bias.

We close the episode with the latest and most shocking facial recognition scandal. It turns out face recognition researchers are chasing down unwilling subjects and restraining them to get the subjects' pictures – all in service to untried and udderly unreliable technology. All we need to turn this into a major scandal is a public policy entrepreneur willing to work the intersection between the EFF and PETA.

Download the 262nd Episode (mp3).

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