The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

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

Episode 266 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


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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