At a glance.
- Australia and Big Tech regulation.
- Global privacy regulation.
- Solorigate reprisal or response.
Australia as a bellwether for Big Tech regulation.
As we’ve seen, Canberra is mulling legislation that would require Google and Facebook to compensate domestic media outlets for the news excerpts that populate feeds and search results, and Google has graciously offered to pull its services instead. Foreign Policy says the impending battle will force stakeholders from the Biden Administration to Big Tech (which “arguable tilted the social media playing field” in the Administration’s favor) to show their cards.
While news excerpts capture eyeballs for the platforms, Foreign Policy argues that outlets are getting free advertising in return. In Paris the parties compromised with a new publication model, but Canberra wants more: namely, oversight of the platforms’ algorithms. Foreign Policy worries this would “nationalize the service—and make it virtually useless,” since contemporary algorithms are adaptive entities, not fixed formulas. (This also explains why Bing is not concerned, because its code is not as flexible or competitive.) Warning that Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran (and increasingly the EU) are not digital role models, the piece maintains that asking US firms to subsidize state news and surrender trade secrets are two steps too far.
President Trump hinted that the move could run afoul of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement. Although President Biden “never misses an opportunity” to emphasize alliances, Foreign Policy says he’s unlikely to link arms on this one—though he could allow a “broken Australian internet” to stand as a cautionary tale of the risks of shackling innovation.
Global data privacy regulation and the price of a laissez-faire approach.
The Wall Street Journal observes that the US is not in the driver’s seat when it comes to international data privacy standards, and the cost for businesses could be high. Canada, China, India, and Brazil are in line to add to EU, Japan, South Korea, and California rules, as are a handful of other US states. The resulting patchwork of laws is tricky for firms to track; Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, and others are beefing up their privacy departments. Localization requirements in particular may up the ante.
While most rules resemble the GDPR (one industry expert estimates a roughly eighty percent overlap), regional laws and customs create non-negligible variation. Meanwhile national lawmakers in the US sit at an impasse, on the outside looking in.
Solorigate blowback preview.
Law360 reports the Biden Administration is considering the costs of “unleashing cyberweapons,” with experts advising that he “proceed with caution.” The Council on Foreign Relations notes that concocting a suitable blend of defensive and offensive measures is a delicate undertaking, notwithstanding President Biden’s purported warning that “the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions…are over.”
Unless backdoors or “cyber bombs” are uncovered, advisers are apparently counseling that available responses are numbered. (Even should mischief beyond espionage be discovered, expending single-use weapons would be costly and invite retaliation.) Sanctions are typically reserved for disruptive attacks, the article says, and using something like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to go after the perps could in the future rebound on US intelligence activities. Instead the author recommends boosting resilience through novel “data correlation technologies” and expanding hunt forward “malware inoculation” efforts.