CLIP-ings: August 30, 2019

Internet Governance

German Court Suspends Cartel Regulator’s Restrictions On Facebook Data Integration: A Dusseldorf court suspended an order by Germany’s Federal Cartel Office that would have created a structural separation of Facebook’s businesses by banning the company from combining data across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp without user consent; the Office has indicated that it intends to appeal the suspension.

FTC, AT&T, Settle Data Throttling Lawsuit: The 2014 lawsuit alleged that AT&T failed to inform consumers with unlimited plans that their data speeds would be reduced after they used a certain amount of data each month; the parties have sought a 90-day stay to allow the FTC to vote on the settlement.

Privacy

Sweden Imposes First GDPR Fine On Municipality For High School’s Trialing Of Facial Recognition Technology: The school claimed that it obtained students’ consent for a pilot program to use facial recognition technology to monitor student attendance; the Swedish Data Protection Authority found that it was nevertheless unlawful to collect the students’ data due to a “clear imbalance between the data subject and the controller.”

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Sensitive Bioterrorism Defense Data Stored On Insecure Website For Over A Decade: The Department of Homeland Security stored the information, which included the public locations of air samplers used to detect airborne biological weapons, results of tests for possible pathogens, and response plans that would be implemented in the event of a bioterrorism attack, on a website that was vulnerable to attacks by hackers; the website has now been shut down, but officials do not know whether hackers obtained access to the data.

Intellectual Property

Former Waymo Engineer Indicted For Autonomous Vehicle Trade Secrets Theft: The DOJ filed a 33-count indictment against Anthony Levandowski, alleging that he stole trade secrets relating to self-driving car technology from Google’s Waymo before leaving to found his own company that was later acquired by Uber; Levandowski pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in federal court in California.

Publishers Sue Audible Over Speech-To-Text Feature: Seven book publishers have filed a lawsuit against the audiobook company alleging that its new “Captions” feature, which uses machine learning to transcribe spoken words into written ones so users can follow the text of an audiobook, violates copyright law because Audible does not hold licenses to reproduce written versions of the books; Audible contends that the feature “was never intended to be a book,” and emphasizes that it differs from a book in that users cannot flip through pages of text but must wait for text to be generated as they listen along.

Free Expression & Censorship

College Student’s Visa Cancelled Over Friends’ Social Media Posts: U.S. Customs and Border Protection cancelled a Harvard student’s visa at the airport due to U.S.-critical posts on his friends’ social media accounts, even though the student had not interacted in any way with the content; the student is seeking to challenge the decision.

On The Lighter Side

Court Orders Man Claiming To Be Bitcoin Inventor To Pay $5 Billion In Bitcoin: A U.S. district court in Florida has ordered Craig Wright to pay half of his Bitcoin holdings to the estate of a deceased programmer involved in the creation of the cryptocurrency; experts have questioned Wright’s claim that he invented Bitcoin, and the court did not decide the question.

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

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Alison Gordon
Editorial Fellow

CLIP-ings: August 23, 2019

Internet Governance

Facebook Faces Fair Housing Act Lawsuit Over Advertising Practices: Several New York residents filed a proposed class action in California federal court alleging that Facebook allowed advertisers to restrict ads from certain users based on characteristics such as race and gender; the lawsuit is the latest in a string of litigation concerning the allegedly discriminatory nature of housing advertisements on Facebook.

States Reportedly Planning Antitrust Investigation Of Big Tech Companies: At least twelve states’ attorneys general are intending to issue civil subpoenas in the latest antitrust investigation into the major technology companies; the investigation is expected to be formally announced in September.

Privacy

Facebook Launches “Clear History” Privacy Feature: The new tool, which will initially be introduced in Spain, Ireland, and South Korea, will show users which websites are tracking their off-Facebook activity and sending ad targeting reports to Facebook, and will allow users to “disconnect” their off-Facebook activity from their Facebook account; the tool will not delete data from Facebook’s servers, however.

Is Libra What It Seems? A new opinion paper released by researchers at the Digital Equity Association and University College London’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies argues that Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency is born out of the social network’s motivation to “become the world’s digital identity provider”—a role that would be of significant financial interest to Facebook as an advertising company.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Ransomware Attack Targets 22 Texas City And Local Governments: The coordinated attack has reportedly affected access to birth and death certificates and utility bill payment services; the attack highlights the vulnerabilities of some local governments’ IT infrastructure.

Intellectual Property

YouTube Sues Alleged Copyright Troll Over Extortion Scheme: YouTube contends that a user who caused the website to remove other users’ content by making false allegations of copyright violations, and then demanded payment from the users to withdraw the allegations, violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition against fraudulent takedown claims.

Free Expression & Censorship

Facebook, Twitter, Investigate Chinese Government-Linked Accounts Critical Of Hong Kong Protests: The social media companies discovered and have suspended certain accounts and advertisers which are alleged to have “deliberately and specifically” sought to create political discord around the protests in Hong Kong.

Practice Note

Federal Circuit Affirms Injunction Barring PTAB Proceedings On Basis Of Forum Selection Clause: A clause in a patent license agreement which stated that any disputes would be litigated in a court in San Francisco County or Orange County, California, precluded PTAB proceedings in litigation concerning royalty payments for distribution of virtual reality headsets.

On The Lighter Side

YouTube Mistakenly Removes Robot Fight Videos For Animal Cruelty: The website conceded that it was mistaken to have removed videos of robots fighting for violating its policies against deliberate infliction of animal suffering.

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

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Alison Gordon
Editorial Fellow

CLIP-ings: August 16, 2019

Internet Governance

Job Search Websites Ask European Antitrust Regulator To Investigate Google: 23 job search websites have written to the European Commission alleging that Google has engaged in unfair and anti-competitive conduct by using its own service to steal their market share; the company is reportedly already making changes to its job search feature in Europe in response.

U.S. Trade Representative Announces Delay To Tariffs On Certain Electronic Devices From China: Although a round of tariffs on Chinese imports will take effect on September 1, tariffs on products such as cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, and computer monitors will be delayed until December 15; the announcement comes after Apple, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft wrote to the USTR expressing concern over the impact of the tariffs.

Privacy

Irish Regulator Investigates Facebook’s Review Of Audio Recordings: Ireland’s Data Protection Commission is “seeking detailed information” about the social network’s manual review of audio recordings after already investigating Google, Apple, and Microsoft for engaging in the practice; Facebook has stated that it paused human reviews of audio more than a week ago.

QR Codes On Debt Collection Letters Violate Consumer Protection Law: The Third Circuit recently ruled that debt collection notices that include the codes, which can be scanned by any smartphone and are “susceptible to privacy intrusions,” reveal encrypted account numbers and thus violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

SEC Investigating First American Financial Corp. Over Exposure Of 885 Million Records: The investigation will determine whether the title insurance company violated any federal securities laws as a result of the exposure of financial records relating to mortgage deals; the New York Department of Financial Services is already investigating the company for potential cybersecurity violations in connection with the leak.

Intellectual Property

Federal Circuit Vacates International Trade Commission Preclusion Ruling: As part of a trademark infringement suit brought by personal transportation company Segway, a three-judge panel vacated the court’s earlier opinion that found trademark rulings from the ITC preclude district court litigation over the same issue.

Free Expression & Censorship

LGBTQ Creators Sue YouTube, Google, Over Alleged Discrimination And Censorship Practices: The lawsuit alleges that YouTube discriminatorily and unfairly applies its policies to restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the plaintiffs and the LGBTQ community.

Practice Note

California Supreme Court Rules On Standing Of Website Visitors: In a case challenging payment processing service Square’s “Prohibited Goods and Services” policy as discriminatory, the court found that “visiting a website with intent to use its services is, for purposes of standing, equivalent to presenting oneself for services at a brick-and-mortar store”; the ruling may have wide-reaching ramifications for online businesses.

On The Lighter Side

Amazon’s Facial Recognition Technology Mistakes California Lawmakers For Criminals: A recent test by the ACLU mismatched one in five photographs of lawmakers with mugshot pictures.

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

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Alison Gordon
Editorial Fellow

CLIP-ings: August 9, 2019

Internet Governance

eBay Sues Amazon Over Alleged Seller Poaching: The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, claims that Amazon managers carried out a criminal conspiracy in which they directed employees to target and recruit to Amazon high-value eBay sellers; this is the second such lawsuit by eBay against Amazon.

Privacy

FCC Filing Reveals Pentagon Is Testing Mass Surveillance Balloons: Up to 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons have been launched to surveil six Midwestern states; while the balloons will reportedly detect narcotics trafficking and homeland security threats, privacy groups have criticized the wide-area surveillance, which could track the travel and location of any vehicle in the target area.

Technology Companies Pause Reviews Of Audio Recordings: Apple and Google have halted employee reviews of recordings made by voice assistants and Amazon has introduced an opt-out feature, but Microsoft contractors are reportedly continuing to review recordings; Apple now faces a federal lawsuit in California and the German data protection regulator is investigating Google’s practices.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

AT&T Employees Allegedly Received Bribes To Help Unlock Millions Of Smartphones: The DOJ has charged a Pakistani man with paying bribes totaling more than $1 million to AT&T employees at a company call center in Washington; the scheme allegedly involved the installation of malware that captured confidential and proprietary information about AT&T’s internal computers and applications, and automatically unlocked phones without requiring any employee input.

Intellectual Property

Walmart Files Patent Application For Digital Currency: The filing proposes a method for a blockchain-based digital currency which could be pegged to the U.S. dollar and made available for use at selected Walmart retailers or partners; the proposal is similar to Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency Libra.

Free Expression And Censorship

Social Media Companies Face Scrutiny Over Hate Speech: Civil rights activists have urged Twitter to ban white supremacist content following the recent mass shooting in El Paso, and the House Homeland Security Committee has asked the owner of website 8chan to testify on what the forum is doing to address the proliferation of extremist content.

Practice Note

Appeals Court Voids Google Cookie Privacy Class Action Settlement: The Third Circuit found the settlement raised due process concerns by releasing money damages claims and paying privacy groups, rather than class members, under the cy pres doctrine; a district judge will now revisit the settlement.

On The Lighter Side

Amazon Scammer Arrested For Obtaining Refunds By Returning Packages Filled With Dirt: The alleged scam, which took in nearly $370,000, was only discovered after a random search at an Amazon warehouse revealed a dirt-filled box.

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

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Alison Gordon
Editorial Fellow

CLIP-ings: August 2, 2019

Internet Governance

European Court Issues GDPR Ruling On Websites Using Facebook “Like” Button: The Court of Justice of the European Union held that websites that embed Facebook’s “Like” button are, along with Facebook, jointly responsible for the initial processing of visitor data collected though the button and therefore must either obtain visitors’ consent before transferring their data to the social media company or demonstrate a valid legal basis for processing the data; the ruling is also likely to apply to websites that embed other social media plug-ins, many of which collect the data of all website visitors irrespective of whether those users have social media accounts.

Privacy

Consumer Privacy Group Files Motion To Challenge Facebook-FTC Settlement: The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a motion to intervene to prevent court approval of the $5 billion settlement, contending that the proposed deal, which grants Facebook immunity from thousands of outstanding consumer complaints over privacy issues and the use of facial-recognition technology, violates the Commission’s “mandate to review consumer complaints.”

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Capital One Data Breach Exposes Data Of 100 Million Americans: The hack compromised approximately 140,000 social security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers; a Seattle woman has been arrested in connection with the breach, and the New York attorney general has commenced an investigation.

New York Passes New Data Breach Legislation: The Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act, which takes effect on March 21, 2020, expands the definition of “private information” and imposes more stringent breach notification obligations, among other things.

Intellectual Property

TV Broadcasters Sue Streaming Service For Copyright Violations: ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox are suing Locast, a non-profit entity funded by AT&T and Dish that streams local broadcast television programming via the internet; Locast contends that under the Copyright Act, it is not required to pay the broadcasters for their programming due to its non-profit status.

Free Expression & Censorship

Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal In Facebook Terrorism Case: The Second Circuit affirmed that the Communications Decency Act shields Facebook from civil liability to American victims of Hamas attacks in Israel, who had argued that the social media company was liable for providing Hamas with a platform to further its terroristic goals.

Practice Note

USPTO Proposes 25% Fee Increase For America Invents Act Reviews: The proposed fee increase is reportedly due to an increased workload at the PTAB; the proposed rule will be open for comments in September.

On The Lighter Side

Lyft Withdraws Electric Bikes After Two Battery Fires: The ride-sharing company announced its e-bikes will be temporarily unavailable in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose while it investigates its battery technology.

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

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Alison Gordon
Editorial Fellow