The Volokh Conspiracy

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Will European Privacy Law Protect American Child Molesters?

Episode 342 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


Our interview is with Alex Stamos, who lays out a complex debate over child sexual abuse that's now roiling Brussels. The application of European privacy standards (and European AI hostility) to internet communications providers has called into question the one tool that has reduced online child sex predation. Scanning for sex abuse images works well, and even scanning for signs of "grooming" is surprisingly effective.  But both depend on automated monitoring of communications content, something that has apparently come as a surprise to European lawmakers hoping to impose more regulation on American tech platforms.  Left unchanged, the new European rules could make it easier to abuse kids all around the world.  Alex explains the rushed effort to head off that disaster – and tells us what Ashton Kutcher has to do with it (a lot, it turns out).

Meanwhile, in the news roundup, Michael Weiner breaks down the FTC's (and 46 states') long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. Maybe the government will come up with something as the case moves forward, but its monopolization claims don't strike me as overwhelming.  And, as Mark MacCarthy points out, the likelihood that the lawsuit will do something good on the privacy front is vanishingly small.

Russia's SVR, heir to the KGB, is making headlines with a remarkably sophisticated and well-hidden cyberespionage attack on a lot of institutions that we hoped were better at defense than they turned out to be. Nick Weaver lays out the depressing story, and Alex offers a former CISO's perspective, arguing for a federal breach notification law that goes well beyond personal data and includes after-action reports that aren't locked up in post-litigation gag orders. Jamil Jaffer tells us that won't happen in Congress any time soon.

Jamil also comments on the prospects for the National Defense Authorization Act, which is chock full of cyber provisions but struggling forward under a veto threat. If you're not watching the European Parliament tie itself in knots trying to avoid helping child predators, tune in to watch American legislators tie themselves into knots trying to pass an important defense bill without drawing the ire of the President.

The FCC, in an Ajit Pai farewell, has been hammering Chinese telecom infrastructure companies. In one week, Jamil reports, the FCC launched proceedings to kick China Telecom out of the US phone network, reaffirmed its exclusion of Huawei from the same infrastructure, and adopted a "rip and replace" mandate for US providers who still have Chinese gear  in their networks.

Nick and I clash over the latest move by Apple and Google to show their contempt for US counterterrorism efforts – the banning of a location data company whose real crime was selling the data to (gasp!) the Pentagon.

Mark explains proposals for elaborate new regulation elaborate new regulation of digital intermediaries now working their way through—where else? – Brussels. I express some cautious interest in regulation of "gatekeeper" platforms, if only to prevent Brussels and the gatekeepers from combining to slam the Overton window on conservatives' fingers.

Mark also reports on the Trump administration's principles for U.S. government use of artificial intelligence, squelching as premature my celebration at the absence of "fairness" and "bias" cant.

Those who listen to the roundup for the porn news won't be disappointed, as Mark and I dig into the details of Pornhub's brush with cancellation at the hands of Visa and Mastercard – and how the site might overcome the attack.

In short hits, Nick and I disagree about Timnit Gebru, the "ethicist" who was let go at Google after threatening to quit and who now is crying racism. I report on the enactment of a modest but useful IoT Cybersecurity law and on the doxxing of the Chinese Communist Party membership rolls as well as the adoption of the most law-enforcement-hostile technology  yet to come out of Big Tech – Amazon's Sidewalk.

Download the 342nd Episode (mp3)

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