The Volokh Conspiracy

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Bill Barr Crosses the Rubicon

Episode 322 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


For the first time in twenty years, the Justice Department is finally free to campaign for the encryption access bill it has always wanted.  Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced the Lawful Access To Encrypted Data Act. (Ars Technica, Press Release) As Nick Weaver points out in the news roundup, this bill is not a compromise. It's exactly what DOJ wants – a mandate that every significant service provider or electronic device maker build in the ability, when served with a warrant, to decrypt any data it has encrypted.

In our interview, Under Secretary Chris Krebs, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, drops in for a chat on election security, cyberespionage aimed at coronavirus researchers, why CISA needs new administrative subpoena authority, the value of secure DNS, and how cybersecurity has changed in the three years since he took his job.

Germany's highest court has ruled that the German competition authority can force Facebook to obtain user consent for internal data sharing, to prevent abuse of a dominant position in the social networking market. Maury Shenk and I are dubious about the use of competition law for privacy enforcement. Those doubts could also send the ruling to a still higher forum – the European Court of Justice.

You might think that NotPetya is three years in the rear-view mirror, but the idea of spreading malware via tax software, pioneered by the GRU with NotPetya, seems to have inspired a copycat in China. Maury reports that a Chinese bank is requiring foreign firms to install a tax app that, it turns out, has a covert backdoor. (Ars Technica, Report, NBC)

The Assange prosecution is looking less like a first amendment case and more like a garden variety hacking conspiracy thanks to the government's amended indictment. (DOJ, Washington Post) And, as usual, the more information we have about Assange, the worse he looks.

Jim Carafano, new to the podcast, argues that face recognition is coming no matter how hard the press and NGOs work to demonize it. And working hard they are. The ACLU has filed a complaint against the Detroit police, faulting them for arresting the wrong man based on a faulty match provided by facial recognition software. (Ars Technica, Complaint)

The Facebook advertiser moral panic is gaining adherents, including Unilever and Verizon, but Nick and I wonder if the reason is politics or a collapse in ad budgets. Whatever the cause, it's apparently led Mark Zuckerberg to promise more enforcement of Facebook's policies.

In short hits, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to chief executives of five large tech companies asking them to ensure social media platforms are not used to incite violence. Twitter has permanently suspended the account of leak publisher DDoSecrets. (Ars Technica, Cyber Scoop). Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was told what he must have known when he filed his case: he cannot sue Twitter for defamation over tweets posted by a parody account posing as his cow. (Ars Technica, Ruling) Nick explains why it's good news all around as Comcast partners with Mozilla to deploy encrypted DNS lookups on the Firefox browser. And Burkov gets a nine-year sentence for his hacking.

Download the 322nd Episode (mp3).

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