The Volokh Conspiracy

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

The ad-based internet: is the roof caving in?

Or just a few rafters? It's episode 393 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


Another week, another industry-shaking antitrust bill from Senate Judiciary:  This time, it's the Open App Store Act, and Mark MacCarthy reports that it's got more bipartisan support than the last one. Maybe that's because there are only two losers, and probably only one really big loser: Apple. The bill would force an end to Apple's app store monopoly. Apple says that would mean less privacy and security for users; Mark thinks there's something to that, but Bruce Schneier thinks that's hogwash. Our panel is mostly on Bruce's side of the debate. Meanwhile, Apple's real contribution to the debate is the enormous middle finger it's extending to other regulators trying to rein in Apple's app store fees.

Megan Stifel reports that Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber issues, has been traveling Europe to beef up our allies' cyber defenses as a Russian war looms in Ukraine. Details about how she's doing that are unsurprisingly sparse.

Meanwhile, Europe is finally coming to grips with the logical consequences of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Turns out, the whole internet as we know it is illegal in the EU. The Belgian data protection authority brought down a big chunk of the roof in holding the IAB liable for adtech bidding procedures that it decided violate the GDPR. And a German court fined some poor website for using Google fonts, which are downloaded from Google and tell that company (located in *gasp* America) a lot about every user who goes to the website. Nick Weaver explains how the tech works. I argue that the logical consequence is that it's illegal for one site to give out an IP address to get data from another site – which is kinda how the internet functions. Nick thinks the damage can be limited to Facebook, Google, and surveillance capitalism, so he isn't shedding any tears over that outcome.

This leads us to a broader discussion of Facebook's travails, as its revenue model becomes the target of regulators, Apple, TikTok, Google, liberals, and conservatives—all while subscriber growth starts to stall. It's not pretty. So I remind listeners of Baker's Law of Evil Technology: "You won't know how evil a technology can be until the engineers who built it begin to fear for their jobs."

Megan and I break down the American Airlines lawsuit against The Points Guy over an app that syncs frequent flyer data.  I think American will lose – and that it should.

Mark and I talk about the latest content moderation flareups, from Spotify and Rogan to Gofundme's defunding of the Canadian lockdown protest convoy. Mark flogs his Forbes article, and I flog my latest Cybertoonz commentary on tech-enabled content moderation. Mark tells me to buckle up, more moderation is coming.

Megan tells the story of PX4, who is hacking North Korea because it hacked him. Normally, that's the kind of moxie that appeals to me, but this effort feels a little amateurish and ill-focused.

In quicker hits, Nick and I debate the flap over, and I try to rebut claims that face recognition has a bias problem. Megan explains the brief fuss over a legislative provision that would have enabled more and faster Treasury regulation of cryptocurrency. Mark touches on the Senate's latest version of the EARN IT bill, as its downsizing continues. I express surprise that Facebook would not only allow people hoping to enter the US illegally to solicit help from human traffickers on the site but would put the policy in writing.

Download the 393rd 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.