CLIP-ings: April 10, 2020


Internet Governance

“Zoombombing” Now Considered A Federal Offense: The trend of gaining access to Zoom meetings and broadcasting disruptive content is now punishable by fines and possible imprisonment in Michigan, according to a press release posted on the state’s U.S. Attorney’s Office website; victims of teleconference hacking can report incidents to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.  

EU To Create Common Rules For Coronavirus Tracking Apps: In an effort to streamline coronavirus tracking efforts across the region while maintaining privacy and data protection standards, the EU Commission and member states are creating a “toolbox” of common rules for the creation and use of mobile apps designed to track the spread of coronavirus.

Privacy

Google Releases Location Data To Assist With Coronavirus Response: The tech firm is releasing a series of “Community Mobility Reports,” which include aggregated, anonymized location history data intended to help public health officials better understand changes in trips to essential businesses and inform decisions regarding regional store hours and delivery service offerings.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

New York City Bans Zoom From Public Schools: Following a series of security and privacy issues with Zoom, New York City’s Department of Education banned the teleconference service in all city schools and is transitioning to Microsoft’s Teams service for remote learning.

Intellectual Property

France Rules Google Must Pay For Reusing News Content: The French competition authority has ordered Google to negotiate with publishers and provide them payment for its use of snippets of their content in its search results; Google had unilaterally removed snippets from search results as a way of avoiding payments to publishers under the EU’s new copyright measures, but the French authority found this tactic to amount to an abuse of Google’s dominant market position.

Free Expression and Censorship

YouTube Limits 5G-Coronavirus Conspiracy Videos: The social media company announced it would remove content connecting 5G to the coronavirus pandemic from the platform for violating its policies against videos promoting “medically unsubstantiated methods” of preventing coronavirus infections.

WhatsApp Restricts Message Forwarding To Limit Spread of False Information: Amid scrutiny for its role in spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, the messaging app announced that it will be attempting to minimize the dispersion of false information by restricting users’ ability to send “frequently forwarded messages” (i.e., messages that have been sent through a chain of five users) to only a single chat at a time. 

On the Lighter Side

New Hinge Feature Encourages Virtual Dates: In the wake of a recent surge in virtual dating, the popular dating app unveiled a new “Date from Home” feature to ease the transition from in-app texting to video calls; the feature allows users to indicate to matches their readiness to have a video call. 

Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Brittany Thomas
Sean Conners
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP



CLIP-ings: March 27, 2020

Internet Governance

Tech Companies Partner With WHO For Coronavirus Hackathon: Facebook, Microsoft, and TikTok are among the tech companies participating in #BuildforCOVID19, a global hackathon aimed at finding software solutions for the coronavirus pandemic; the winning projects will be announced on April 3.

Privacy

Smartphone GPS Data Shows American Social Distancing Patterns: Unacast, a human mobility insights company, uses smartphone GPS location data collected from apps to gauge the extent to which people are staying put and generate a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades adherence to social distancing guidelines by county across the United States; grades have varied greatly, with some localities such as Washington, D.C. receiving an “A” rating, while others like Wyoming earn an “F.” 

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Cybersecurity Experts Fight Coronavirus-Related Hacks: With an uptick in phishing scams and other hacking attempts designed to exploit the coronavirus pandemic, a group of over 400 international cybersecurity experts formed the “COVID-19 CTI League” to fight hacking and ransomware attacks targeted at health organizations and other “frontline responders.” 

Intellectual Property

Google v. Oracle Supreme Court Oral Arguments Delayed Due To Coronavirus: For the first time since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the Supreme Court has postponed hearing oral arguments, delaying the $8 billion copyright case between the tech giants. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Namecheap Blocks Registration Of Domains Containing Coronavirus-Related Words: In an effort to prevent potential abuse, fraud, and misinformation, the domain registrar has temporarily blocked all domain requests that contain words including “coronavirus,” “covid,” or “vaccine;” legitimate companies and website owners will still be allowed to apply for domains containing the blocked words by making a request through Namecheap’s customer support team.

Twitter Locks Account For Promoting Unfounded Coronavirus Advice: The platform temporarily locked The Federalist’s account after the news site tweeted an article encouraging people to deliberately infect themselves in controlled-quarantine coronavirus gatherings similar to “medical chickenpox parties”; Twitter concluded that the post violated its rules regarding COVID-19 content, which prohibit posts that “go[ ] directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.”

Practice Note

Surge In Lawyers Working From Home Increases Risk Of Smart-Devices Hearing Confidential Conversations: Though companies such as Amazon and Google have stated that their digital assistants are designed to record and store conversations only when voice-activated, lawyers are being warned to remove or turn off the devices when working from home given that the devices can often activate in error.

On the Lighter Side

Spanish Police Arrest Man For “Hunting Pokemon” During Lockdown: A 77 year-old man dedicated to “catching them all” was arrested for playing Pokemon Go outside, in violation of the Spanish government’s coronavirus lockdown orders.

Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Brittany Thomas
Sean Conners
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP


CLIP-ings: March 6, 2020

Internet Governance

Cellphone Carriers Face $200 Million Fine For Selling Location Data: The Federal Communications Commission approved the proposed fines against T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint after finding that the carriers violated the Telecommunications Act by not protecting the confidentiality of customers’ location information.

YouTube Sees Success In Curbing Conspiracy Theories: After announcing its plan to crack down on “borderline content” in January 2019, a new study conducted by UC Berkeley finds that conspiracy theories are now 40 percent less likely to appear in users’ video recommendations.

Privacy

Russian Court Rules Facial Recognition Technology Does Not Violate Privacy: A court in Moscow determined that the city’s 105,000-camera facial recognition system—most recently leveraged to enforce coronavirus quarantines and identify individuals at “mass events and protests”—does not violate citizens’ privacy.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Chinese Nationals Assisted North Korean Hackers In Laundering Stolen Cryptocurrency: After stealing over $250 million in cryptocurrency in 2018, North Korean hackers relied on assistance from two Chinese nationals to launder $100 million of it through methods such as prepaid iTunes gift cards.

Intellectual Property

Lawmakers Look To Hold Amazon And eBay Accountable For Counterfeits: Though the retail giants have spent hundreds of millions of dollars targeting the issue, products on the sites such as “knockoff beauty products that cause people’s eyelashes to fall out, and counterfeit cellphone chargers that can cause fires” still remain, prompting lawmakers to hold a hearing and introduce a bill that would make retailers liable for counterfeits sold on their sites. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Dispute Over President’s Speech Raises Questions About Facebook Fact-Checking: A Facebook fact-checking partner’s decision to flag as “false” articles on the platform concerning President Trump’s use of the word “hoax” in connection with coronavirus has stirred questions about how Facebook has designed its fact-checking procedures.

Practice Note

Ninth Circuit Rules That A Privacy Violation Is A Concrete Injury: Though the court affirmed approval of a settlement challenged by Facebook users suing the company for scanning their private messages, the court rejected Facebook’s argument that the users lacked standing, and instead found that Facebook’s conduct resulted in concrete injury under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

On the Lighter Side

Google Hides Musical Treat In Smartwatch: The mini drum sequencer, an Easter egg left by the tech company in its Wear OS device, allows wearers to create their own sick beats using “a colorful four-by-four grid.”

Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Brittany Thomas
Sean Conners
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP

CLIP-ings: February 21, 2020

Internet Governance

Facebook Changes Its Sponsored Content Policy Following Bloomberg Meme Campaign: After Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg paid a number of Instagram influencers to post sponsored memes, Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, lifted a previous ban on “branded content” for political campaigns; under the new policy, such content will have to be clearly marked as sponsored.

Privacy

Congress Demands Information From Amazon Related To Ring Partnerships With Police: Amazon’s video doorbell subsidiary, Ring, has partnered with over 900 police departments since 2018, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday requested more information on the nature of the partnerships; the inquiry follows an announcement from Amazon last week that it would tighten Ring’s privacy controls after a January study by the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that Ring shared customer information with Facebook and Google without user consent. 

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Israeli Soldiers Targeted By Hamas Malware Scam: The Palestinian militant organization targeted Israeli soldiers on social media by posing as young women and asking them to install malware-infected chat apps on their devices; the Israeli Defense Force says it has detected the malware infections and taken down Hamas’ hacking infrastructure.

Intellectual Property

Peloton To Allow Free Trade-In Of Competitor Flywheel’s Bikes: Following a settlement two weeks ago under which Flywheel agreed to stop using Peloton’s patented leadership board technology, Flywheel has discontinued its online service and Peloton has announced a new program allowing Flywheel customers to trade in their bikes for “like-new” Peloton bikes. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Maine Privacy Law Faces First Amendment Challenge From ISPs: In their lawsuit against the state, broadband providers argue that a provision requiring that they obtain opt-in consent before “using, disclosing, selling, or permitting access to customer personal information” infringes their First Amendment right to “advertis[e] or market[ ] non-communications-related services to their customers,” and “offer[ ] price discounts, rewards in loyalty programs, or other cost-saving benefits in exchange for a customer’s consent to use their personal information.” 

Attorney General Reviews Online Platform Immunity: At a recent public meeting held by the Justice Department, Attorney General Barr questioned whether, given a “changing technological landscape,” broad immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is “necessary at least in its current form.”

Practice Note

Federal Judge Dismisses Huawei’s Equipment Ban Challenge: Unpersuaded by Huawei’s argument that it was unconstitutional for Congress to bar U.S. federal agencies from buying the company’s products, the court noted that contracting with the federal government is a privilege, not a constitutionally protected right.

On the Lighter Side

New Bracelet Jams Microphoned Devices: Designed by researchers at the University of Chicago, the “chunky” microphone-studded bracelet emits ultrasonic signals to render human voices incomprehensible to speech-detecting and recording devices such as digital assistants.

Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Brittany Thomas
Sean Conners
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP

CLIP-ings: February 7, 2020

Internet Governance

Twitter To Label Deceptively Edited Content Ahead Of 2020 Election: Joining Facebook and Google in an effort to better regulate misleading content published on their platforms, Twitter announced it will start labeling “synthetic or deceptively edited forms of media” and will remove any “deliberately misleading” content it believes is intended to cause harm.

Privacy

Tech Companies Send Cease-And-Desist Letters to Facial Recognition Technology Company: Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter maintain that Clearview AI’s practice of scraping billions of photos from their platforms to populate its facial recognition database violates their policies; Clearview argues that the First Amendment protects its right to collect the public information.

Kenyan Court Halts Government’s Digital ID Plans: The country’s high court is delaying the government’s implementation of a countrywide biometric registry, registration in which would be a prerequisite for access to certain rights and public services, until there is “an appropriate and comprehensive regulatory framework” in place to protect ethnic minorities from discrimination and maintain the security of user data.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Google Confirms Users’ Private Videos Were Accidentally Sent To Strangers: Google recently notified a subset of Google Photos users that their private videos were exported to other users’ accounts due to a technical issue with the company’s Takeout data-downloading service in late November; the issue has since been fixed and Google has apologized to the affected users.

Intellectual Property

Flywheel Agrees Its Technology Infringed Peloton’s Patented Leaderboard System: The two at-home fitness companies have agreed to settle a September 2018 patent infringement case filed by Peloton; Flywheel has admitted its stationary bikes infringed Peloton’s patented technology and says it will stop using the leaderboard system within 60 days. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Twitter Moves To Quash Subpoena For A User’s Identity By Devin Nunes’s Lawyer: The social media platform is attempting to block the subpoena from Representative Nunes’s lawyer, which seeks to reveal the identity of the parody Twitter account ‘Devin Nunes Cow’, on the bases that disclosure would violate the Stored Communications Act and that the accountholder’s identity is unrelated to the case, which is a defamation suit between other parties.

Practice Note

Ancestry.com Rejects Police Warrant For User DNA: The genealogy website rejected a law enforcement warrant seeking access to the company’s 15 million DNA profiles on undisclosed technical grounds; law enforcement agencies have increasingly sought access to the records of DNA profiling companies for investigations, but receive varying levels of cooperation from different companies.

On the Lighter Side

“Amazon Dating” Provides Expedited Date Delivery: The parody site, which is unaffiliated with Amazon, displays a range of “singles” and other Valentine’s Day Easter eggs.

Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Brittany Thomas
Sean Conners
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP