The Volokh Conspiracy

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

A Dispatch from the US-China Tech Battlefront

Episode 436 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


Our first episode for 2023 features Dmitri Alperovitch, Paul Rosenzweig, and Jim Dempsey trying to cover a months' worth of cyberlaw news. Dmitri and I open with an effort to summarize the state of play in the tech struggle between the U.S. and China. I say recent developments show the U.S. doing better than expected. U.S. companies like Facebook and Dell are engaged in voluntary decoupling as they imagine what their supply chains will look like if the conflict gets worse. China, after pouring billions into a so-far-fruitless effort to take the lead in high-end chip production, may be pulling back on the throttle. Dmitri is less sanguine, noting that Chinese companies like Huawei have shown that there is life after sanctions, and there may be room for a fast-follower model in which China dominates production of slightly less sophisticated chips, where much of the market volume is concentrated. Meanwhile, any Chinese retreat is likely tactical; where it has a dominant market position, as in rare earths, it remains eager to hobble U.S. companies.

Jim lays out the recent medical device security requirements adopted in the omnibus appropriations bill. It is a watershed for cybersecurity regulation of the private sector. It's also overdue for digitized devices that in some cases can only be updated with another open-heart surgery. How much of a watershed it is may become clear when the White House cyber strategy, which has been widely leaked, is finally released. Paul explains it's likely to show enthusiasm not just for more cybersecurity regulation but for liability as a check on bad cybersecurity. Dmitri points out that Biden administration enthusiasm for regulation may not lead to legislation now that Republicans control the House.

We all weigh in on LastPass's problems with hackers –and with candid, timely disclosures. For reasons fair and unfair, two-thirds of the LastPass users on the show have abandoned the service over the Christmas break. I blame LastPass's acquisition by private equity; Dmitri tells me that's painting with too broad a brush.

I offer an overview of the Twitter Files stories by Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, and others. When I say that the most disturbing revelations concern the massive government campaigns to enforce orthodoxy on COVID-19, all hell breaks loose. Paul in particular thinks I'm egregiously wrong to worry about any of this. No chairs are thrown, mainly because I'm in Virginia and Paul's in Costa Rica. But it's a heartfelt, entertaining, and maybe even illuminating debate.

In shorter and less contentious segments:

Download the 436th Episode (mp3)

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