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A big privacy case & Amazon's smart-dumb deal

Legit. | Legal News
Legit. | Legal News
Happy bank holiday Monday! Keeping it short today:
  • India’s biggest privacy case, ever.
  • Amazon & MGM: a breakdown.

India’s biggest privacy case, ever.
Image: Digital Information World
Image: Digital Information World
WhatsApp is suing the Indian government over new internet laws it says will “severely undermine” user privacy.
WhatsApp’s current messaging architecture is propped up by end-to-end encryption: the company doesn’t know what’s in the messages you send, and it doesn’t know who sends which messages.
India’s new laws are designed to tear down that E2E architecture, requiring apps to trace the “first originator” of a message to create a central database that can be used to monitor online activity. WhatsApp’s concerns here are two-fold.
Concern #1: security. As the country’s most popular app, weakening end-to-end encryption will erode the security of the 400-million-plus people who use WhatsApp in India. In the words of WhatsApp’s lawyer: “a government that chooses to mandate traceability is effectively mandating a new form of mass surveillance.”
Concern #2: effort. Huge privacy infringements aside, creating and maintaining a traceable database of millions of messages is a bulky undertaking that vacuums copious amounts of time and money.
The other side: the Indian government says its intention isn’t to poke holes in privacy - but to curb fake news, violence and other ills.
All good and well (if true) but super unrealistic.
Matthew Green, a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University, explains it better than I ever could:
  • “There is no such thing as just collecting information from the bad guys. The minute you build a system that can go back in time and unmask a few people sending a piece of content, you’ve built a system that can unmask anyone sending any content.”
Traceability and end-to-end encryption can’t coexist.
Also: India’s new IT laws are eerily reminiscent of China circa ‘06, when Beijing slowly laid the groundwork for The Great Firewall – a project that stopped external info from flowing into the country and allowed authorities to control what was shared internally.
The result was the exit of Facebook, Google and Twitter from China, and the rise of domestic behemoths WeChat, Baidu and Weibo.
The outcome of WhatsApp’s case will reveal which model – Chinese-style firewall or Western-style free internet – India’s government is floating towards.
Amazon + MGM: worth it?
Amazon just dropped $8.5bn to buy MGM, the Hollywood studio behind James Bond, Rocky and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Against the backdrop of ever-vicious streaming wars, the deal gives Amazon three things.
  • Production capacity. So far, studio limitations have stunted the growth of Amazon’s portfolio of original content. Just 3% of Prime’s library is original, compared with 30% of Netflix’s library.
  • Valuable IP, like the Bond and Rocky franchises. Amazon can bask in Disney’s Marvel universe playbook, leveraging this IP to build out franchises and expand into new content verticals.
  • Access to MGM’s back catalog, which includes 4,000+ films and 17,000+ TV episodes.
So, on paper, the acquisition seems like a smart move. But will an Amazon-MGM duo be the leviathan that kills Netflix? Probably not.
First, MGM doesn’t own the full rights to the jewel in its crown: 007. The Bond franchise is partly owned by Eon Productions in the UK, who exercise strict control over how the character is used and, following the deal announcement, waved away gossip that Bond would be exclusive to Amazon: “we are committed to continue making James Bond films for the worldwide theatrical audience.”
In a similar vein, a lot of MGM’s legacy titles, like The Wizard of Oz, aren’t owned by the studio anymore - making MGM more akin to a gilded icon of times past than a modern studio churning out cutting-edge content. And, in terms of price, $8bn is a lot to pay for little more than a legacy logo.
We’re living in the happy-go-lucky era of media mergers and consolidation, "where well-resourced tech-backed companies are cannon balling into the entertainment industry and every company is reorienting itself around streaming,” per Observer.
It’s hard to feel like this onslaught of M&A etches deeper than mega-services collecting spare parts in a muddle of brand identity and strategy.
But then again - this is Amazon we’re talking about. It’s not like the deal is void of all value and, even if it was, a billion-dollar price tag is hardly going to dent the tech giant’s bottom line. 
  • Breaking: the Reserve Bank of India states that banks can’t stop investors from investing in crypto.
  • UN Human Rights Council establishes a commission to investigate human rights violations in Gaza.
  • Shell is ordered to deepen carbon cuts in landmark Dutch climate case.
  • China announces three-child policy in a major policy shift.
  • EU citizens win right to access personal data held by Home Office.
  • Former Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz sues Netflix over portrayal in Jeffrey Epstein series.
  • Retired F.B.I. agent is accused of swindling Texas woman out of $800,000.
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Legit. | Legal News
Legit. | Legal News @anniamirza

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