The Volokh Conspiracy

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

Volokh Conspiracy

Jane's Fighting Nerds

Episode 328 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


The Belfer Center has produced a distinctly idiosyncratic report ranking the world's cyber powers – though they should have called it Jane's Fighting Nerds. Bruce Schneier (@schneierblog) and I puzzle over its rankings, but at least the authors provided the underlying assessments that led them, among other oddities, to rank the Netherlands No. 5, and Israel nowhere in the top ten. The US is number one, but that's partly due to the Center's insistence that the US ranking should be boosted because we're a norms superpower. In my book, that should have cost us a 20% discount off our offensive capabilities ranking.  Don't agree? Download the report and pick your own fight!

Our interview today is with Cory Doctorow, diving deep on his pamphlet/book, "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism." It's a robust and entertaining three-cornered fight – me, Cory, and the absent Shoshana Zuboff, whose 700-page tome launched the surveillance capitalism meme. You'll enjoy hearing me ask Cory, a Red Diaper Baby born to Trotskyists, to explain why his solution to tech's overreach is so similar to Attorney General Bill Barr's.

Elsewhere in the news roundup, Nate Jones (@n8jones81) and I unpack the Pandora's Box of pain loosed by the European Court of Justice in Schrems IIFacebook is fighting a multilevel rearguard action – in the courts, in two capitals, and in its terms of service—to try to salvage its current business model.

I cover the latest Tok in the TikTok saga.  Oracle has won … something or other. Sultan Meghji (@sultanmeghji) and I puzzle over how the TikTok algorithm can stay in China while the dataset it's training on remains in the United States. 

The Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Google is getting nearer and nearer, judging from the thrashing in the underbrush. But we still don't have a good idea what part of Google's business will be targeted. Sultan explains the state of play. 

In a news flash as surprising as a report that the weather in San Diego will be sunny and fair, Microsoft has confirmed that the Chinese, Iranians, and Russians have launched cyber-attacks on Biden and Trump campaigns. For reasons unknown, the press can't get enough of this thin gruel.

Bruce and Sultan chart the reasons and tactics behind the rise of ransomware and the importance of being a reliable criminal if you want to make money in extortion. 

Nate unpacks China's global data security initiative so you don't have to waste your time. The tl;dr is that other countries shouldn't do any of the things China is doing or aspiring to do. 

Speaking of things you don't have to read because we took the hit, Bruce tells us what's in the new White House cyber-security policy for space systems. Really, it's all "shoulds" and puts nobody in charge of enforcement. It would be kind to call it the beta version of a space cybersecurity policy.

Sultan argues that there may after all be a limit to the EU's ability to get every part of the internet economy to enforce EU speech codes, and the domain name registries hope they're on the other side of that line. 

You probably saw the "op-ed" that an AI "wrote," explaining why humans need not fear it.   Bruce, Sultan, and I have plenty of fun mocking Open AI's penchant for Open Hype.  But Bruce reminds us that sooner or later the hype will be real, and more than half of Twitter will be machines talking to other machines.  Judging from my Twitter feed, that will be an improvement. 

Finally,  This Week in Sore Losing: In honor of AWS's brief complaining that it should have beat Microsoft to the lucrative JEDI contract, I update an old lawyer's motto: If you've got the law on your side, pound the law. If you've got the facts, pound the facts. And if you've got neither, pound the Orange Man.

And more!

Download the 328th Episode (mp3)

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Pocket Casts, or our RSS feed. As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to Remember: If your suggested guest appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug!

The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.