The Volokh Conspiracy

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Episode 449 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


GPT-4's rapid and tangible improvement over ChatGPT has more or less guaranteed that it or a competitor will be built into most new and legacy IT products. Some of those applications will be pointless; but some will change users' world. In this episode, Sultan Meghji, Jordan Schneider, and Siobhan Gorman explore the likely impact of GPT4, from Silicon Valley to China.

Kurt Sanger joins us to explain why Ukraine's IT Army of volunteer hackers creates political, legal, and maybe even physical risks for the hackers and for Ukraine. This may explain why Ukraine is looking for ways to "regularize" their international supporters, and probably to steer them toward defending Ukraine's infrastructure rather than attacking Russia's.

Siobhan and I dig into the Biden administration's latest target for cybersecurity regulation —cloud providers.  I wonder if there isn't a bit of bait and switch in operation here. The administration seems at least as intent on regulating cloud providers to catch hackers as to improve defenses.

Say this for China: It never lets a bit of leverage go to waste, even when it should. Case in point: To further buttress its seven-dash-line claim to the South China Sea, China is demanding that companies get Chinese licenses to lay submarine cable in the contested territory. That, of course, incentivizes the laying of cables much further from China, out where they'll be harder for the Chinese to deal with in a conflict. That doesn't sound smart, but some Beijing bureaucrat will no doubt claim it as a win for the wolf warriors. Ditto for the Chinese ambassador's response to the Netherlands restricting chip-making equipment sales to China, which boiled down to "We will make you pay for that. We just don't know how yet." The U.S. is not always good at dealing with other countries or the private sector, so it's nice to be competing with a country that is demonstrably worse at it.

The Security and Exchange Commission has gone from catatonic to hyperactive on cybersecurity. Siobhan notes its latest 48-hour incident reporting requirement and the difficulty of reporting anything useful in that time frame.

Kurt and Siobhan bring their expertise as parents of teens and aspiring teens to the TikTok debate.

I linger over the extraordinary and undercovered mess created by "18F"—the General Service Administration's effort to bring Silicon Valley's can-do culture to the government's IT infrastructure. It looks like they managed to bring Silicon Valley's arrogance, its political correctness, and its penchant for breaking things but forgot to bring either competence or honesty. was 18F's online identity verification for federal agencies disbursing  benefits or otherwise dealing with the public. 18F sold it to a host of federal agencies that wanted to control fraud during the pandemic. But it never delivered the biometric checks that federal standards required. First, 18F lied to its federal customers about how or whether it was using biometrics. When it finally admitted the lie, it brazenly claimed it was not checking because the technology was, wait for it, racially biased. This claim ran counter to the only available evidence (GSA claimed that it did its own bias research, research that was apparently never published). Oh, and it refused to give back the $10 million it charged its victims, arguing that the work it did on the project cost more than it billed them, so they didn't lose anything. Except for the fraud that bad identity checks likely enabled in the middle of COVID handouts, a loss everyone has been decidedly incurious about.  And one more thing: Among the victims of 18F's scam was Senator Ron Wyden (Ore.), who touted and its phony biometric checks as the "good" alternative to, a private identity-checker that encountered political flak over its contract with the IRS. Bottom line advice for 18F alumni: It's not too late to start scrubbing the entity from your LinkedIn profile.

The Knicks have won some games. Blind pigs have found some acorns. But Madison Square Garden (and Knicks) owner, Jimmy Dolan is still pouring good money into his unwinnable but highly entertaining fight to use facial recognition against lawyers he does not want in the Garden. Kurt offers commentary, and probably saves himself the cost of Knicks tickets for all future playoff games.

Finally, in listener feedback, I give Simson Garfinkel's answer to a question I asked (and should have known the answer to) in episode 448.

Download 449th Episode (mp3)

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