The Policy Download

The weekly summary of tech policy and politics
Issue 40 / 6 August 2021
 Feature story 

Apple and child safety (link)

Apple have announced new child safety features, most notably the scanning of devices to identify child sexual abuse material (CSAM). A good thread on the technical questions here

Some people have reacted with grave concern about the privacy implications, while others can't fathom why anyone wouldn't unconditionally welcome efforts to counter CSAM. 

There is no one involved in sensible debate who doesn't think that efforts to prevent CSAM are good. And from my limited technical understanding Apple have done some very clever work here. But it would be wrong not to think about this in the context of efforts around the world - by democracies and by dictatorships - to regulate legal content that governments don't like.

Apple's solution for CSAM will look very appealing for a dictator who wants to crack down on images mocking them. 
 Other stories this week 

Home Office gets involved in disinformation (link)

The Home Office commissioned the setting up of a fake website to deter asylum seekers from coming to the UK. Straight out of the disinformation playbook they created an entirely fake organisation to push their agenda and then spent >£20,000 of taxpayers' money to advertise it on social media. This would have been monumentally stupid at the best of times, but for one of the departments with core responsibility for the Online Safety Bill it is particularly and impressively dumb.  

Pension funds and venture capital (link

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have written to institutional investors inviting them to cause an "Investment Big Bang in Britain". They want big fund managers and allocators to invest long term in tech (venture, specifically) and infrastructure. This follows the lifting of the Pension Charge Cap, allowing defined benefit pension funds to pay higher management fees and opening the door to invest in venture capital. 

Nvidia, Arm and national security (link - £)

It's looking likely that Nvidia's acquisition of Arm will be blocked on national security ground after the DCMS Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, received the Competition and Market Authority's report. Tech is politics, and so it is also international relations. 

SEC and crypto (link - £)

The United States Security and Exchange Commission has asked Congress for increased powers to deal with cryptocurrency markets. Decentralised finance, meet centralised regulator - sure you'll get on! 

Gaming, china, lootboxes (link - £)

The Chinese State Council now requires students to be "reasonable" in their use of electronic products to prevent online gaming addiction. A state paper referred to games as "spiritual opium" and "electronic drugs". This wiped billions off the value of Chinese companies with major games holdings. Tencent lost £40bn of market value (ouch). China is obviously a unique case but, perhaps, it will be a wake up call to video games companies that regulators and governments pose a massive threat to their licence to operate. With the UK government due to report back on what it intends to do about loot boxes, there is a lot at stake. 
 Consultations to note 
Digital identity and attributes consultation: DCMS (link) - opened 19/07/21, closing 13/09/21.

Online safety and online harms: DCMS Sub-committee on Online Harms and Misinformation (link) - opened 27/09/21, closing 03/09/21.

Draft Online Safety Bill: Draft Online Safety Bill Joint Committee (link) - opened 29/07/21, closing 16/09/21.

UK Prospectus Regime: HM Treasury (link) - opened 01/07/21, closing 24/09/21. 

A new pro-competition regime for digital markets: DCMS (link) - opened 20/07/21, closing 01/10/21.

Reporting rules for digital platforms: HMRC (link) - opened 30/07/21, closing 22/10/21. 

Enterprise Management Incentives: HM Treasury (link) - opened 03/03/21.
 Next week in Parliament 

Nothing until the 6th September because we are on recess
 My recent work 
Big growth at Taso Advisory

A final plug for the fact that I've been delighted to welcome four, yes four!, new joiners to the Taso Advisory team. You can read a top write up from POLITICO's Matt Honeycombe-Foster here. Margot James, former Digital Minister, joins as Non-Executive Chair. Jennifer Powers, former Westbourne Comms MD, joins as Senior Advisor. Spencer Powers, former Hanbury Strategy and Labour Party digital policy lead, joins as a Director. Mia Bartoloni, former Dods PLC consultant, joins as a Consultant. I would say this, but these four cement Taso Advisory as the tech policy shop. You should work with us. 

Online Safety Bill messaging

Taso Advisory ran an internal session with a large tech company, supporting them on their messaging around the Online Safety Bill. If you think we can help you as you engage with the biggest bit of tech policy in the UK, get in touch.

If you'd like a conversation about how either Taso Advisory or Greenstone Research can support you, please just get in touch. 
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Ben Greenstone is the author of The Policy Download.

Ben is the managing director of Taso Advisory, a public policy consultancy, and director of Greenstone Research, a subscription research service. Before this, Ben was an adviser to UK government ministers, including two ministers with responsibility for digital and the creative industries.

You can get in touch with Ben at: or

Ben tweets at @ben_greenstone.
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