Algorithms: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

From Smoke-Filled Rooms to Computer Algorithms – The Evolution of Collusion – Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice Stucke at The CLS Blue Sky Blog

When Bots Collude – The New Yorker

The FTC is Worried about Algorithmic Transparency, and You Should be Too – PCWorld

Academic Papers:

Artificial Intelligence & Collusion: When Computers Inhibit Competition – Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice Stucke (pdf available at the link; 38 pages)

Antitrust and the Robo-Seller: Competition in the Time of Algorithms – Salil K. Mehra (pdf available at the link; 60 pages)

Recent DOJ Action:

Former E-Commerce Executive Charged with Price Fixing in the Antitrust Division’s First Online Marketplace Prosecution – Department of Justice Press Release. The Topkins DOJ charges: – pdf (5 pages)


Quote of the Day:

“Usability is critical. Lots of good crypto never got widely adopted as it was too hard to use; think of PGP. On the other hand, Tails is horrifically vulnerable to traditional endpoint attacks, but you can give it as a package to journalists to use so they won’t make so many mistakes. The source has to think ‘How can I protect myself?’ which makes it really hard, especially for a source without a crypto and security background. You just can’t trust random journalists to be clueful about everything from scripting to airgaps. Come to think of it, a naive source shouldn’t trust their life to securedrop; he should use gpg before he sends stuff to it but he won’t figure out that it’s a good idea to suppress key IDs. Engineers who design stuff for whistleblowers and journalists must be really thoughtful and careful if they want to ensure their users won’t die when they screw up. The goal should be that no single error should be fatal, and so long as their failures aren’t compounded the users will stay alive.”

— Ross Anderson at Light Blue Touchpaper



Law, Tech and Policy

An Updated Readers’ Guide on Section 215 and the USA Freedom Act – Just Security

Concerns of an Artificial Intelligence Pioneer – Quanta

All Job Increases Since 2001 are in Non-Routine Work – FuturePundit, commenting on Is Your Job ‘Routine’? If So, It’s Probably Disappearing – Wall Street Journal. But with a bit of the contrary view – Be Calm, Robots Aren’t About to Take Your Job, MIT Economist Says – Wall Street Journal. Also: ProfessorDavid H. Autor’s (MIT) paper Polanyi’s Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth (pdf; 47 pages), which is cited in the WSJ article. From the abstract: “A key observation of the paper is that journalists and expert commentators overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities. The challenges to substituting machines for workers in tasks requiring adaptability, common sense, and creativity remain immense.”

The Computers are Listening; How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text (part 1) and (part 2) – The Intercept

With Lock Research, Another Battle Brews in the War Over Security Holes – Wired

Tor Browser 4.5 is Released – The Tor Project; plus there’s a relatively recent new version of SecureDrop (0.3) – Announcing the New Version of SecureDrop, with the Results from our Third Security Audit (March 23rd) – Freedom of the Press Foundation and related commentary at BoingBoing. Also: The People Who Risk Jail to Maintain the Tor Network – Motherboard/Vice

Smartphone Secrets May Be Better Than a Password – MIT Technology Review, and the related academic paper ActivPass: Your Daily Activity is Your Password (pdf; 10 pages)

Encrypting Your Laptop Like You Mean It and Passphrases that You Can Memorize, but that Even the NSA Can’t Guess – Micah Lee at The Intercept

SEC Adopts Rules to Facilitate Smaller Companies’ Access to Capital – the SEC’s press sheet and fact sheet on its revisions to Regulation A. Also: pdf of the Final Rules and supplementary information (454 pages).

The Mission to Save the Internet by Rewiring it from the Name Up – Motherboard/Vice

China Rates its Own Citizens, Including Online Behavior – Volkskrant; and Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014-2020) – China Copyright and Media

General Interest

Natural Police: Seen through Game Theory, Cancer and Police Corruption are Pretty much the Same Thing, and for One of Them, There’s a Cure – Aeon

Where the Real Skyscrapers Are; Hint: North Dakota – ArchDaily on TV masts as some of the tallest structures in the world

The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness: Inside Disney’s Radical Plan to Modernize its Cherished Theme Parks – FastCompany

ZPM Expresso and the Rage of the Jilted Crowdfunder – New York Times; but see Professor James Grimmelmann Riskstarter; Kickstarter is a Tool for Managing Risk. Also: A Crowdfunded Startup Explains why Crowdfunding can be a Complete Disaster – Verge

New Study Shows that People Stop Listening to New Music at 33 – A.V.Club


Second Circuit Bulk Collection Decision (link roundup)

The Opinion: pdf (110 pages)

News Reports:

NSA Program on Phone Records is Illegal, Court Rules – Washington Post

NSA Phone Program is Illegal, Appeals Court Rules – Wall Street Journal

Audio Summary for Laypersons: Professor William McGeveran on Wisconsin public radio (approx. 10 minutes)

Analysis and Opinion:

Second Circuit Rules that Section 215 Does Not Authorize Telephony Bulk Collection Program – Marty Lederman at Just Security

Second Circuit Rules, Mostly Symbolically, that Current Text of Section 215 Doesn’t Authorize Bulk Surveillance – Orin Kerr in the Washington Post

Court Backs Snowden, Strikes Secret Laws – Noah Feldman at BloombergView

Background Legal Paper by an Attorney for one of the Amici Curiae: Bulk Metadata Collection: Statutory and Constitutional Considerations by Laura Donohue (2013)(pdf download at the link)

Impact on Patriot Act Section 215 Status/Sunset:

How the Second Circuit’s Decision Changes the Legislative Game – Liza Goiten at LawFare

The Second Circuit and the Politics of Surveillance Reform – Steve Vladeck at Just Security


If the Supreme Court Tackles the NSA in 2015, It’ll be One of these Five Cases – The Hill


Recording the Police

What to Say When the Police Tell You to Stop Filming Them – The Atlantic

Legal Background:

A Due Process Right to Record the Police – Glenn Reynolds and John Steakley (pdf download at the link)

Citizen Recordings of Police in Public Places — First Amendment Protection? – A very good legal roundup at Concurring Opinion

Helpful Apps:

It’s Your Right to Film the Police; These Apps Can Help – Wired

New ACLU Mobile Justice App Empowers Public to Safeguard Rights – ACLU of Northern California

Two Recent Podcasts of Note:

Striking a Balance – Whistleblowing, Leaks and Security Secrets (LawFare podcast)

Key portion: 00:07:29 (after intro and panelist bios) to 01:32:30 (when audience Q&A starts)
A discussion amongst Bob Litt (General Counsel for the Office of the Director of National Security), Ken Dilanian (Associated Press), Gabriel Schoenfeld (Hudson Institute) and Steve Vladeck (LawFare), about leaks, whistleblowing, the Espionage Act and Snowden.

Stewart Baker Discussion with Bruce Schneier (Steptoe CyberLaw podcast)

Key portion: 24:18 to 58:30
Bruce Schneier and Stewart Baker tangle on a variety of topics, including the wisdom and legality of “hacking back”, Bruce’s book “Data and Goliath” and some general surveillance/privacy matters. Nothing particularly new here, but always interesting to hear these two – from opposite ends of the spectrum – tangle.

We Were Promised Jetpacks . . .


Department of Defense’s Updated Cyber Strategy

The DoD Report: Department of Defense’s April 2015 Cyber Strategy Report (pdf; 42 pages)

News Coverage:

What’s New in the U.S. Cyber Strategy – Washington Post

Pentagon Announces New Strategy for Cyberwarfare– New York Times


Two Observations About The New DOD Cyber Strategy – LawFare

Rebooting DOD’s Cyber Strategy – Professor Kristen Eichensehr (UCLA) at Just Security

Related: Transcript of Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter’s speech April 23rd at Stanford University


Quote of the Day:

“There is no argument whatsoever that the proliferation of devices and information are empowering. It is categorically true, not to mention obvious, that technology is today far more democratically available than it was yesterday and less than it will be tomorrow. 3D printing, the whole ‘maker’ community, DIY biology, micro-drones, search, home automation, constant contact with whomever you choose to be in constant contact with — these are all examples of democratizing technology. This is perhaps our last fundamental tradeoff before the Singularity occurs: Do we, as a society, want the comfort and convenience of increasingly technologic, invisible digital integration enough to pay for those benefits with the liberties that must be given up to be protected from the downsides of that integration? If, as Peter Bernstein said, risk is that more things can happen than will, then what is the ratio of things that can now happen that are good to things that can now happen that are bad? Is the good fraction growing faster than the bad fraction or the other way around? Is there a threshold of interdependence beyond which good or bad overwhelmingly dominate? Now that we need cybersecurity protections to the degree that we do, to whom does the responsibility devolve? If the worst laws are those that are unenforceable, what would we hope our lawmakers say about technologies that are not yet critical but soon will be?”

— Dan Geer on Where the Science is Taking Us in Cybersecurity; as they say, read the whole thing.


The (Revived) Encryption War Continues

The Latest:

As Encryption Spreads, U.S. Grapple with Clash between Privacy, Security – Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman writing in The Washington Post reveal that federal officials are considering a variety of means of ensuring access to encrypted communications, including split key approaches, as well as, in certain circumstances, mirror accounts. Under the split key approach (difficult from an engineering and cryptography standpoint), a technology company creates a decryption key that is split into pieces, with different pieces held by different parties, and all of the pieces are needed for decryption. But even aside from the question of trust in the holders of the key parts, risk of disclosure of the decrypted information and the like, as security expert/researcher, Dino A. Dai Zovi (@dinodaizovi) tweeted: “The big question of the #cryptodebate isn’t whether vendors can make a decryption key for USG, but what happens when other [governments] want it too?”

How Do We Build Encryption Backdoors? – Professor Matthew Green (Johns Hopkins) analyzes the problems with building encryption backdoors, including split key approaches, at his A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering blog

You Can’t Backdoor a Platform – Jonathan Mayer at his Web Policy blog

Background – 2014-15, the Crypto Wars Return

James Comey, F.B.I. Director, Hints at Action as Cellphone Data Is Locked – The New York Times, and FBI director Attacks Tech Companies for Embracing New Modes of Encryption; James Comey says Data Encryption Could Deprive Police and Intelligence Agencies of Potentially Live-saving Information – The Guardian

Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads for Police, even with Search Warrants – The Washington Post

iPhone Encryption and the Return of the Crypto Wars – Bruce Schneier

What NSA Director Mike Rogers Doesn’t Get About Encryption – Julian Sanchez at CATO

What President Obama is getting wrong about encryption – The Washington Post

The FBI Keeps Demanding Impossible Solutions to Its Encryption Problem – MotherBoard/Vice

Background – the 1990’s (and earlier) Crypto Wars

Keeping Secrets: Four Decades Ago, University Researchers Figured out the Key to Computer Privacy, Sparking a Battle with the National Security Agency that Continues Today. – Henry Corrigan-Gibbs (Stanford Magazine)

Encryption and Globalization – a 2011 academic paper (Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, Vol. 23, 2012) by Peter Swire and Kenesa Ahmad, which includes a brief summary of the original 90’s “Crypto Wars”

Crypto Wars – Wikipedia

Hacker Lexicon: What is End-to-End Encryption – Wired


Want to Protect your Phone from the Cops? You Might Want to Use a Passcode, Not a Fingerprint; Virginia Court Rules Using Fingerprint Technology to Protect Your Phone Doesn’t Carry Same Legal Rights as Passcodes – FastCompany




Robotics Law and Policy

The reading syllabus (pdf; two pages) for Professor Ryan Calo’s (University of Washington) course on law and robotics – an excellent resource for those interested in robotics/drones/AI. Among other things, it includes Professor Calo’s own paper, Robotics and the Lessons of Cyberlaw, 103 California Law Review (forthcoming 2015), and Professor Jack Balkin’s (Yale) The Path of Robotics Law, 5 California Law Review Circuit (forthcoming 2015).


The agenda (and conference roundup) for the “We Robot 2015″ conference on robotics, law and policy recently held at the University of Washington, including links to various academic papers such as Woodrow Hartzog’s Unfair and Deceptive Robots

What is a Robot, Anyway? – Harvard Business Review

If a Robot Kills Someone, Who is to Blame? – The Globe and Mail

The Myth Of AI: A Conversation With Jaron Lanier – Edge; and a response: Why I Don’t Worry About a Super AI – Kevin Kelly at Technium

Robots for Humans: Addressing the Engineering Challenges – IHS GlobalSpec

EU v. Google (link roundup)


China’s Great Cannon

Toronto’s Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs posits in an online report that, separate and apart from China’s “Great Firewall”, China possesses a “Great Cannon” offensive cyberattack tool which hijacks traffic to (or from) IP addresses, and which can replace unencrypted content as a man-in-the-middle. According to the report:

“The operational deployment of the Great Cannon represents a significant escalation in state-level information control: the normalization of widespread use of an attack tool to enforce censorship by weaponizing users. Specifically, the Cannon manipulates the traffic of bystander’ systems outside China, silently programming their browsers to create a massive DDoS attack. While employed for a highly visible attack in this case, the Great Cannon clearly has the capability for use in a manner similar to the NSA’s QUANTUM system, affording China the opportunity to deliver exploits targeting any foreign computer that communicates with any China-based website not fully utilizing HTTPS.”



Law, Tech and Policy

Why Security Pros Don’t Like Obama’s Proposal for Antihacking Law – Christian Science Monitor’s Passcode

Edward Snowden’s Impact – an assessment by law professor Orin Kerr in The Washington Post

U.S. Secretly Tracked Billions of Calls for Decades – USA Today

How the Computer Got Its Revenge on the Soviet Union; Condemned as a Capitalist Tool, the Computer Would Help Expose the USSR’s Weakness – Nautilus

Internet Privacy, Funded by Spooks: A Brief History of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) – Pando Daily

The Anti-Information Age; How Governments are Reinventing Censorship in the 21st Century – The Atlantic

Will Deep Links Ever Truly Be Deep? – The Buzz over Linking Mobile Apps Obscures Links’ True Potential to Create Profound Networks of Knowledge and Share Power More Widely – Scott Rosenberg at Medium’s Backchannel

The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty – The New Yorker; the text of the GNU Manifesto written by Richard Stallman at the beginning of the GNU Project in March 1985 (including subsequent clarifying footnotes)

No, Entrepreneurs, Most of You Don’t Need Angel Investors or Venture Capitalists – Washington Post

16 ideas from Marc Andreessen for a More Dynamic US Economy – Marc Andreessen’s twitter stream @pmarca (excerpted at the American Enterprise Institute’s public policy blog)

4chan’s Overlord Christopher Poole Reveals Why He Walked Away – Rolling Stone

General Interest

Fifty Great Genre-Bending Books Everyone Should Read – Flavorwire

The 100 Best Books of the Decade So Far – The Oyster Review

The 100 Best Films of the Decade So Far – A.V. Club


FCC’s Net Neutrality Proposal (link roundup; updated to reflect release of the FCC Order)

Release of the Net Neutrality Order (March 12, 2015):

FCC Webpages Regarding the Release of the Open Internet Order: main page and webpage with links to the Commissioners’ statements and the FCC Order itself (direct link to pdf of the FCC Order – 400 pages)

But will the FCC Order survive court challenges? – On Net Neutrality, Six Ways The FCC’s Public Utility Order Will Lose In Court – Larry Downes in Forbes

Passage of the FCC Proposal (February 26, 2015):

FCC Press Release Regarding Passage of the Net Neutrality Rules.

The FCC Approves Strong Net Neutrality Rules – Washington Post

Why Everyone was Wrong about Net Neutrality – Tim Wu in The New Yorker

It’s Not Really Net Neutrality – Michael Wolff in USA Today

The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules: Five Things You Need to Know – PCWorld

FCC’s Original Proposal (February 4, 2015):

FCC Fact Sheet (four pages) – Chairman Wheeler Proposes New Rules for Protecting the Open Internet

This is How We Will Ensure Net Neutrality – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s OpEd in Wired

The Head of the FCC Just Proposed the Strongest Net Neutrality Rules Ever – The Washington Post

Don’t Call Them ‘Utility’ Rules: The FCC’s Net Neutrality Regime, Explained – ArsTechnica explainer

AT&T Previews Lawsuit it Plans to File Against FCC Over Net Neutrality – ArsTechnica

GOP, Tech Industry Mostly Out of Step Over Net Neutrality Issue – Los Angeles Times


Net Neutrality: President Obama’s Plan for a Free and Open Internet – President Obama Statement (November 2014)

Net Neutrality: A Guide to (and History of) a Contested Idea – The Atlantic (April 2014)

The Problem with Net Neutrality – Law Professor Richard Epstein (January 2014)