Seeing the Round Corners

HEADS UP, the new day for Seeing the Round Corners “GOING LIVE” is Tuesday each week. 

February 4, 2020


Today’s column makes a switch now that the government’s incentives to drive behavior have been carefully presented.

At this writing, Chesney and Citron believe the other side of the deep fake-based harms is the marketplace and that the private sector will “develop and sell services intended to protect customers from at least some forms of deep fake-based harms.” Most likely, the flurry of services for cyber security in recent years are a response to customer anxiety.

Social media companies have been in the forefront against deep fake harms to their platforms. The “requested” appearance of Facebook’s founder before Congress most likely served as a wake up call that if social media companies did not step up to the plate, legislative interventions would.

Chesney and Citron label the first – private sector development and sale of services intended to protect – immutable life logs as an alibi service. Such credible alibis will become incredibly valuable, and demand for ways to secure them will spur a broader range of development. The two reasons:  1) services that ensure one can disprove a harmful fake; and 2) the revenue opportunity spurring companies to develop new ways to “ensure that one can disprove a harmful fake.” 

Cited by Chesney and Citron is the U. S. Department of the Treasury’s sanction of Russian Cyber Actors for interference with the 2016 U. S. election and Malicious Cyber Attacks (March 15, 2018):

  • “The Internet Research Agency LLC (IRA) tampered with, altered, or caused a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions. Specifically, the IRA tampered with or altered information in order to interfere with the 2016 U. S. election. The IRA created and managed a vast number of fake online personas that posed as legitimate U. S. persons to include grassroot organizations, interest groups, and a  state political party on social media. Through this activity the IRA posted thousands of ads that reached millions of people online. The IRA also organized and coordinated political rallies during the run up to millions of people online. The IRA also organized and coordinated political rallies during the run up to the 2016 election all while hiding its Russian identity. Further, the IRA unlawfully utilized personally identifiable information from U. S. persons to open financial accounts to help fund IRA operations.”

Chesney and Citron predict a profitable new service:  immutable life logs or authentication trails that would enable a person to produce a certified alibi of what he or she did not do or say. Pointed out is that the typical person – us ordinary American citizens, as this writer likes to refer to – would not have need of such a deep-fake defense mechanism. The segment of the population such as “politicians, celebrities and others whose fortunes depend to an unusual degree on fragile reputations,” are the only ones likely to use such a sophisticated type of deep-fake mechanism. GPS is now provided by smart phones and Android phones as well as on most new cars. 

On probably an even scarier front, employers have now latched onto such technology to use it in deterring or catching employee misfeasance and malfeasance. Readers should recall earlier stages of such technology – installation of dashboard cameras on police cars and the current wave sweeping the country for body cameras on the officers themselves. While the initial benefits seem profound, caution is encouraged by Chesney and Citron because of the privacy issue – “proliferation of comprehensive life logging could have tremendous spillover impacts on privacy in general; the outright functional collapse of privacy via social consent despite legal protections intended to preserve it.”

As the comprehensive life logging “proliferates” at the rapid pace anticipated by Chesney and Citron, the power it places the supplier of such services in could be phenomenal. Even though companies swear to not exploit the data for commercial or research purposes, the possibility remains for it to generate revenue from customers’ subscriptions, or just “slices” of the stored data. 

Chesney and Citron point out, the third-party doctrine as things currently stand, would “ensure relatively easy government access to that database for investigative purposes,” an additional can of worms. Such may result in the enhancement of most welcomed prosecutorial capacity on one side but not all around. Policymakers and legislators will no doubt need to give careful consideration and put in long hours of debate. 

Chesney and Citron hope policymakers and legislators will not allow the development of an immutable life logs as an alibi service to get out of hand and surpass the present degree of possible detection and enforcement.

Next week Speech policies of Platforms and a recap of the Deep Fake and Deep Fake Videos.

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at