The Cyberlaw Podcast

On Episode 261, blockchain takes over the podcast again. We dive right into the recent activity from the SEC, namely, the Framework for “Investment Contract” Analysis of Digital Assets and the No-Action Letter issued to TurnKey Jet, Inc. (TurnKey) for a digital token. Gary Goldsholle noted this guidance has been eagerly anticipated since July 2017 when the SEC first applied the Howey Test to a digital token with the DAO report. The current framework focuses primarily on the reasonable expectation of profits and efforts of others prongs of the Howey Test. While the framework lays out a number of factors to consider when determining whether a token is a security, the practicality of those factors is still up for debate.

Will Turner explained that the TurnKey No-Action Letter was most useful for parties interested in structuring a private, permissioned, centralized blockchain, but believes the guidance in the Framework would allow for alternative structures. The key from the SEC’s perspective is that there is no expectation of profits for token holders, since the token is a stablecoin pegged to the value of USD and there is no use of the token outside of TurnKey’s network. Jeff Bandman noted the irony that the first No-Action Letter related to blockchain and cryptocurrency involves private jets, particularly since “Mr. and Ms. 401(k)”—the retail investors SEC Chairman Jay Clayton is focused on protecting—are not likely to become private jet users anytime soon.

Jeff emphasized the importance of network functionality and observed that the network for private jet use was already established. Alan Cohn highlighted this tension between the need for centralization to achieve functionality, and need for decentralization as a means to avoid meeting the “derived from the efforts of others” prong of the Howey Test.

Gary then turned to Blockstack’s Regulation A filing, the most comprehensive effort to register a token under Reg. A that we have seen to date. Blockstack is seeking to be a Tier 2 issuer, meaning they can raise up to $50 million in 12 months, which comes with heightened disclosure obligations and requires audited financials. While they seek to raise capital as a security today, their ultimate goal – and a central risk factor in their offering circular – is to achieve the requisite level of decentralization such that they no longer would meet the definition of a security.

Meanwhile, in Congress, the recently reintroduced Token Taxonomy Act of 2019 would exempt a newly defined category of digital tokens from the definition of a security, as well as provide some clarity on tax issues for cryptocurrency users and exchanges. Jeff observed that these amendments might contribute further to a gap in federal regulation over spot trading markets. While the CFTC has enforcement authority, they do not have the authority to directly supervise the bitcoin trading market. 

Turning to the interview, Jeff describes how he co-founded Global Digital Finance (GDF), along with other co-founders in Europe, Asia and the United States, in order to address the lack of international standards surrounding the blockchain industry—or even a general consensus of terminology. Jeff describes how GDF has a number of working groups focused on developing high-level principles and standards on a range of topics, including stablecoins, custody, tax and security tokens. GDF is trying to fill in some of the gaps that appear when jurisdictions regulate cryptocurrencies and crypto-assets differently. As an example of its work, GDF’s KYC/AML/CTF group recently commented on FATF’s standards, issuing two comments in October 2018 and April 2019.


Jeff is also in the process of launching a new transfer agent service, Block Agent, focused on enabling and supporting SEC-regulated issuances. As markets mature, it is increasingly important to have the necessary post-trade infrastructure, and he is committed to offering services that recognize the novel features and efficiencies around these new technologies. 

For our listeners in the D.C. area, Steptoe is hosting a half-day complimentary regulatory symposium this Thursday, May 2, in our D.C. office. Our plenary speakers include current and former commissioners and high-level officials with agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Surface Transportation Board, and the Environmental Protection Agency. We will also have breakout panels focused on four separate topics: Deference, Globalization, Regulatory/Legislative Approach and Preemption. To register, click here

Download the 261st 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 CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. 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 the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-261.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:21pm EST

In this episode, Nick Weaver and I discuss new Internet regulations proposed in the UK. He’s mostly okay with its anti-nudge code for kids, but not with requiring proof of age to access adult material. I don’t see the problem; after all, who wouldn’t want to store their passport information with Pornhub?

Sri Lanka’s government has suspended social media access in the wake of the Easter attack. As Matthew Heiman notes, the reaction in the West is more or less a shrug—far different from the universal contempt and rejection displayed toward governments who did much the same during the 2011 Arab Spring rebellions. What made the difference? I argue that it’s Putin’s remarkably successful 2016 social media counterattack on Hilary Clinton as payback for her social media campaign against him in 2011.

DNS hijacking is just getting more brazen, according to a new Cisco Talos report. Nick and I talk about why that is and what could be done about it.

Paul Rosenzweig, back from hiatus and feisty as ever, mocks the EU Commission for its on-again, off-again criticism of Kaspersky’s security. Short version: The Commission wants badly to play in cybersecurity because it’s the Hot New Thing, but it has no institutional competence there, in either sense of the word. Speaking of Kaspersky, someone is doing a bad job of trying to compromise its critics with ham-handed private investigator-imposters.

Naked Kitten? Nick and I have a good laugh at the doxxing of Iranian government hackers.

Man bites dog: The Trump Administration is taking interagency processes seriously, and doing a better job than Obama’s team—at least when it comes to use of Cyber Command. Matthew dives into the repeal of PPD-20.

Paul brings us up to date on the Mar-a-Lago Thumb Drive Affair. Maybe it wasn’t malware after all.

Remember that face recognition software that the NGOs said was so crappy it had to be banned? Now, the New York Times reports that it’s so good it has to be banned. Not so fast, says Microsoft: Our face recognition software is still so crappy that it can’t be sold to law enforcement, and it ought to be export controlled so that China can sell—and keep improving—its face recognition tools.

Bet you thought we forgot the Mueller Report. Nope! In fact, I offer the one conclusion about the report that everyone across the political spectrum can agree on. Anti-climactically, Paul and I point out that the report throws sidelights on the "Going Dark" debate and Bitcoin anonymity. Nick points out that we already knew everything the Mueller Report tells us on those topics.

Finally, Nick and I wrangle over the lessons to be drawn from Facebook’s privacy travails.

 

Download the 260th 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 CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. 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 the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-260_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:54pm EST

Our News Roundup is hip deep in China stories. The inconclusive EU-China summit gives Matthew Heiman and me a chance to explain why France understands—and hates—China’s geopolitical trade strategy more than most.

Maury Shenk notes that the Pentagon’s reported plan to put a bunch of Chinese suppliers on a blacklist is a bit of a tribute to China’s own list of sectors not open to Western companies. In other China news, Matthew discloses that there’s reason to believe that China has finally begun to use all the U.S. personnel data it stole from OPM. I’m so worried it may yet turn my hair pink, at least for SF-86 purposes.

And in a sign that it really is better to be lucky than to be good, Matthew and I muse on how the Trump Administration’s China policy is coinciding with broader economic trends to force U.S. companies to reconsider their reliance on Chinese manufacturing.

It’s not all China, though. To kick things off, Nick Weaver and I schadenfreude our way through an otherwise serious take on the Julian Assange story and its strikingly narrow Computer Fraud and Abuse Act charge—and why extradition is likely to be a pain.

We also delve into the Google Sensorvault story. Nick and I agree that law enforcement access to location data, especially under the conditions set by Google, isn’t much of a privacy scandal, at least compared to private access to the same data. But that doesn’t mean it won’t raise endless legal problems for all concerned, partly because asking for a warrant out of the box isn’t quite the right legal or privacy framework.

Pete Jeydel notes two examples of CFIUS’s new toughness: It’s forcing a Russia-linked firm to sell stake in a cybersecurity company, and it has handed out a $1 million fine to a company that blew off its obligations under a mitigation agreement.

Maury covers the German data protection commissioner’s refusal to let German police store data in the Amazon cloud. The commissioner blames the CLOUD Act and the risk that US authorities may get cross-border access to the data. I flag the commissioner for hypocrisy and ignoring international law. Turns out that the Justice Department has a good new whitepaper out on the CLOUD Act, and it points out that remote access to offshore data has been an implicit part of the Budapest Convention since the ‘90s. 

Returning once more to China, Maury and I touch on the Chinese government’s use of AI to find Uighurs in crowds of Han Chinese. In my view, the only thing surprising about this story is that the New York Times thinks we should be surprised by it.

 

Download the 259th 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 CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. 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 the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-259.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:05pm EST

Our News Roundup leads with the long, slow death of Section 230 immunity. Nick Weaver explains why he thinks social media’s pursuit of engagement has led to a poisonous online environment, and Matthew Heiman replays the astonishing international consensus that Silicon Valley deserves the blame—and the regulation—for all that ails the Internet. The UK is considering holding social media execs liable for “harmful” content on their platforms. Australia has already passed a law to punish social media companies for failure to remove “abhorrent violent material.” And Singapore is not far behind. Even Mark Zuckerberg is reading the writing on the wall and asking for regulation. I note that lost in the hate directed at social media is any notion that other countries shouldn’t be able to tell Americans what they can and can’t read. I also wonder whether the consensus that platforms should be editors will add to conservative doubts about maintaining Section 230 at all—and in the process endanger the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would enshrine Section 230 in U.S. treaty obligations.

Nate Jones and I summarize the latest Reuters piece on American hackers working for the UAE. The short version? This is more a victory lap combined with journalists’ special pleading than a major new story.

Nate also briefs us on the latest tale of woe from Silicon Valley, where taking Chinese money and tech means you’re likely to get burned—in a government-ordered fire sale.

Nick and I disagree about how flawed facial recognition is, but not on the fact that NGOs are working overtime to turn the technology toxic.

Nate gives Kaspersky’s lawyers high grades for imagination and effort but not for credibility in their claim that we can trust the company’s software because Russian law doesn’t authorize Putin to intercept its data feeds. 

And, with a hat tip to Gus Coldebella for the story, Matthew and I dig into the Washington attorney general’s $12 million settlement with Motel 6 for its cooperation with ICE. We think Motel 6 could have defended on federal preemption grounds and maybe gotten help from the Justice Department. But if the problem was bad publicity, that defense would have just made things worse.

Our interview is with Adam Segal, the Council on Foreign Relations’ expert on all things digital and China. Adam prognosticates on the likely fate of US-China trade talks, data localization in China, and on the future of China’s commercial cyberespionage plans.

Download the 258th 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 CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. 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 the firm.

 

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-258.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:58pm EST

In today’s News Roundup, Klon Kitchen adds to the North Korean Embassy invasion by an unknown group. Turns out some of the participants fled to the U.S. and lawyered up, but the real tipoff about attribution is that they’ve given some of the data they stole to the FBI. That rules out CIA involvement right there.

Nick Weaver talks about Hal Martin pleading guilty to unlawfully retaining massive amounts of classified NSA hacking data. It’s looking more and more as though Martin was just a packrat, making his sentence of nine years in prison about right. But as Nick points out, that leaves unexplained how the Russians got hold of so much NSA data themselves.

Paul Hughes explains the seamy Europolitics behind the new foreign investment regulations that will take effect this month.

Nick explains the deeply troubling compromise of update certs at ASUS and the company’s equally troubling response. I ask why the only agency with clear authority over an incident with important national security implications is the FTC.

Nick and I comment on the Federal Trade Commission’s pending investigation of the privacy practices of seven Internet service providers.

Speaking of sensitive data practices, Klon talks about the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ belated recognition that maybe the Chinese government shouldn’t have access to the most intimate desires of a portion of the U.S. LGBTQ community. I try to explain the difference between Tik Tok and Yik Yak and mostly fail.

Meanwhile, in splinternet news, the EU Parliament has approved the controversial Copyright Directive. A bunch of MEPs, soon to be running for reelection, claim they meant to vote against it, really, but somehow ended up voting for it.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is suing Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act. I ask listeners for help in finding guests who can talk about whether it’s a good idea to bar ad targeting that lets companies look for more customers like the ones they already have, even if their customers already skew toward particular genders and ethnicities.

Finally, Nick and I break down Gavin de Becker’s claim that the real killer in the Bezos sexting flap was Saudi Arabia. Plenty of smoke there, but the lack of a reference to any forensic evidence raises doubts about de Becker’s version of events.

Download the 257th 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 CyberlawPodcast@steptoe.com. 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 the firm.

Direct download: TheCyberlawPodcast-257.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:05pm EST

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