CLIP-ings: July 3, 2020

Internet Governance

UK Regulator Recommends Forming New Tech-Focused Agency: Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority proposed that the national government create a specialized antitrust unit to manage tech companies’ control over smaller industries that depend on them for web traffic and user data, enforce transparency, and increase overall public trust. 

Privacy

TikTok And 32 Other Apps Use Clipboard To Access Private Information: Despite TikTok’s pledge to curb the practice in March, the company continues to access information that is stored on the user’s clipboard (where devices store cut or copied data), including “passwords, cryptocurrency wallet addresses, account-reset links, and personal messages.”

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Twitter Using Technology To Detect Bots: To help eliminate “bad actors” on the site, Twitter challenges and suspends millions of accounts every month by using technology to monitor users’ behaviors and detect patterns indicative of fake accounts.

UC San Francisco Reveals Details Of Ransomware Negotiation: Following a ransomware attack on its IT infrastructure by the Netwalker hacking group, details of a ransom negotiation orchestrated through the hackers’ dark-web chat platform were made public in a rare glimpse into the mechanics of resolving a large-scale cyberattack.

Intellectual Property

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Trademark For “Booking.com”In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the travel site’s name is eligible for federal trademark protection, reasoning that “because [the name] is not generic to consumers, it is not generic” and is therefore entitled to protection to prevent copycat sites from misleading potential customers. 

Google Will Absorb The Cost Of News Paywalls: In an effort to provide greater access to “high-quality” news, Google will pay publishers to license their content, covering the cost of subscription paywalls often used by news sites to monetize content; Google has already signed publishers in Australia, Germany, and Brazil. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Facebook Ad Boycott Gathers Steam: Honda and Unilever joined over 100 companies halting  advertising on Facebook this week as part of the “Stop Hate for Profit” civil rights campaign, which is designed to pressure the social media company to take more concrete steps to end hate speech and misinformation on its platform. 

On the Lighter Side

More Than 1,000 Phrases Incorrectly Trigger Voice-Activated Digital AssistantsNew research finds that Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant devices can be incorrectly triggered by over a thousand words and word-sequences, including “Montana,” “election,” and “hey Jerry.”

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

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Isabel Brown
Caroline Vermillion

Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP

CLIP-ings: June 19, 2020

Internet Governance

DOJ Proposes Communications Decency Act Reform: A proposal to reform CDA Section 230, which currently immunizes online services from liability for user-created content, recommends that Congress amend the law to deny immunity to sites that “purposely facilitate criminal activity,” require sites to log and keep reports of reported bad activity for law enforcement in order to “maintain their existing level of rights,” and curtail the sites’ content moderation powers. 

Google Expands Policies To Prevent Discriminatory Targeted Advertising: Though Google previously barred targeting advertisements based on “race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation,” the company has announced it will further fight unlawful discrimination “by barring housing, employment and credit ads” from targeting users based on “their postal code, gender, age, parental status, or marital status.” 

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Former eBay Executives Charged With Cyberstalking Critics: Six former eBay executives were charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses after harassing a Massachusetts couple who edit a blog that critiqued the company; the executives mailed, among other things, “a bloody pig Halloween mask”  to the couple’s home, sent threatening Twitter messages, and allegedly surveilled the couple “in their home and community.”  

Zoom Applies End-To-End Encryption To All Communications: The videoconferencing service announced that all user communications would be encrypted end-to-end by default; the decision reverses Zoom’s prior policy  that offered only paid users such privacy protections. 

Privacy

Microsoft Pitched Facial Recognition To Federal Law Enforcement: Emails obtained by the ACLU reveal that in 2017, Microsoft’s Cognitive Services Group pitched facial-recognition and other AI products to the DEA, months before the company called for “public regulation and corporate responsibility” in that field; last week, the company pledged to not sell the technology to police departments. 

Intellectual Property

Google Countersues Sonos For Speaker Patent Infringement: In January 2020, Sonos sued Google for patent infringement, alleging that Google stole Sonos’s technology for “multiroom network speaker systems”; Google now countersues Sonos for infringement of Google’s “mesh networking, echo cancellation, DRM, content notifications, and personalized speech” patents. 
Free Expression and Censorship

Fox News Removes Manipulated Protest Images From Site: After the Seattle Times discovered that Fox inserted “altered and misleading” pictures  in its online coverage of Seattle’s civil rights marches, the news conglomerate replaced the images and posted an editor’s note explaining the retraction.
On the Lighter Side

Facebook To Launch New Feature To Block Political Ads: Facebook and Instagram will soon allow users to block all “political, electoral, and social issue” advertisements; this feature will be launched throughout the United States in the next few weeks and will be available globally by Fall of 2020. 
Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP
Isabel Brown
Caroline Vermillion
Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: June 5, 2020

Internet Governance

Senator Cruz Accuses Twitter Of Violating Iran Sanctions: In a May 29 letter to the Department of Justice and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senator Cruz called for a criminal investigation into the social media company for not blocking Iranian leaders’ accounts, which Cruz claimed violated the Iran sanctions rooted in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). 

Privacy

Google Faces $5 Billion Class Action Lawsuit For Tracking Users In “Private” Mode: A class action lawsuit filed against Google in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleges that the company violates “wiretapping and privacy laws” by  tracking information such as “consumer browsing history and other web activity data” despite users browsing in “incognito” or “private” mode. 

California Reveals Privacy Law Enforcement Strategy: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released the proposed regulations for the California Consumer Privacy Act, though their definitions of key terms such as “sale of data,” “third-party cookies,” and the entities subject to the law—uncertainties which tech giants could exploit to avoid liability—raise early doubts about enforcement effectiveness. 

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Zoom To Provide End-To-End Encryption For Paying Users Only: Zoom announced that it will provide full encryption privacy services only to paying users who can be verified, as well as non-profit organizations “that require the added security”; the move comes as part of an effort to keep “illegal and abusive content” off the platform.

Intellectual Property

Major Publishers Sue Internet Archive For Permitting Free Access To Millions Of Books: Numerous publishers from the Association of American Publishers filed suit in New York federal court against the Internet Archive and five others for copyright infringement, alleging that the scanning, reproducing, and distributing “digital bootleg [works] online” as part of the Internet Archive’s Open Library amounts to “mass infringement;” plaintiffs seek both an injunction and $150,000 in statutory damages per infringement. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Lawsuit Filed Against President Trump For Recent Social Media Executive Order: On June 2, the Center for Democracy and Technology filed a lawsuit against President Trump, alleging that his executive order restricting social media platforms’ ability to censor misinformation and curb online violence was purely “retaliatory” and in violation of the First Amendment.

Practice Note

California Limits Fees For Public Record Requests: After a local police department charged $3,000 in “redaction fees” for body camera footage from a UC Berkeley protest, the California Supreme Court narrowed the circumstances in which government agencies can charge fees for public record requests to exclude the cost of any privacy redactions made in the process of fulfilling those requests.  

On the Lighter Side

Researchers Analyze Why We Stretch Our Words Online: A pair of applied mathematicians from the University of Vermont published a study of 100 billion Tweets concluding that users tend to extend two- and double-letter words, such as “aw” and “finally,” to convey a broad range of emotions and attract attention in a limited space; the findings will be “critical” in training AI chatbots to better parse human-written text. 

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

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Isabel Brown
Caroline Vermillion
Editorial Fellows