CLIP-ings: November 8, 2019

Internet Governance

TikTok Attracts Further Congressional And Regulatory Scrutiny: TikTok was criticized this week after it declined to appear at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing investigating links between big tech companies and the Chinese government; the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. has also commenced a national security review of TikTok owner ByteDance’s acquisition of the social media app Musical.ly, which later merged into TikTok.

California’s Attorney General Reveals Investigation Into Facebook’s Privacy Practices: The investigation was made public in court documents alleging that the social media company failed to comply with subpoenas seeking information related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Privacy

Florida State Court Approves Warrant To Search DNA Database Of Over 1.2 Million Users: The warrant, which authorized a Florida detective to search the database of DNA site GEDmatch, is believed to be the first authorizing the search of a consumer DNA database for genetic information; the development has stoked concerns that law enforcement, which historically has been “deliberately cautious about approaching [DNA] sites with court orders,” will now be encouraged to request similar warrants for larger sites.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Former Twitter Employees Charged With Leaking Personal Information To Saudi Royal Family: Two individuals who worked for Twitter from 2013 to 2015 have been charged with leaking as many as 6,000 profile records to Saudi officials claiming to represent the royal family, including records related to critics of the royal family and murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Researchers Command Alexa And Other Voice Assistants Via Laser: Using equipment estimated to cost less than $400, researchers were able to silently issue voice commands to smart speakers by encoding the command in the intensity of the laser beam and shining it on the device’s microphone to trigger the microphone’s diaphragm; the study raises security concerns as researchers successfully ordered products through Amazon and took control of smart home devices.

Intellectual Property

Judge Rules Against Netflix, Hulu’s Motion To Dismiss In DivX Patent Infringement Suit: DivX, one of the internet’s first high-quality video streaming enablers, allege in separate suits that Netflix and Hulu infringe a number of its patents covering video compression technology; the Judge rejected both Netflix and Hulu’s arguments that the DivX patents fail the Alice test on the basis that the arguments rest on “factual disputes that are better resolved on a more robust record after the scope of the claims is better understood.”

Free Expression and Censorship

Lawsuit Against Facebook Alleges Discriminatory Advertising Again: The proposed class action alleges that Facebook enabled advertisers of loans, life insurance, and other financial services to target users by age and gender; the lawsuit follows a settlement between Facebook and civil rights groups earlier this year in which the company agreed that advertisers of housing, employment, and credit would no longer be able to target users based on age, gender, or ZIP code.

On the Lighter Side

FTC Releases Informational Brochure To Help Keep Social Media Influencers On Brand: In an effort to remind influencers about best practices and necessary disclosures, the FTC has released a new brochure and video to educate influencers; in response to public pressure, the FTC has been increasingly scrutinizing influencers, sending more than 90 letters to infringing individuals in 2017.

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
Lawrence Keating
Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: November 1, 2019


Internet Governance

FCC Proposes Rule Requiring Telecoms To Remove Huawei And ZTE Equipment: The proposal, which cites national security concerns, would prohibit telecommunications giants from using money received from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment from the Chinese companies, and would also require removal of any banned products that have already been installed.

Privacy

Australian Government Considers Face Verification For Pornography Viewers: While conducting an inquiry into age controls for restricting access to online porn and gambling, the Department of Home Affairs has proposed using the country’s Face Verification Service—which “matches a person’s photo against images used on one of their evidence of identity documents”—to assist in age verification; a similar proposal was dropped in the United Kingdom earlier this month.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Senators Ask Intelligence Community To Investigate TikTok Over National Security Concerns: In a recent letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Senators Tom Cotton and Chuck Schumer requested an assessment of the national security risks posed by the video app popular with young people; the letter notes that TikTok’s parent company is required to adhere to Chinese law and may be required to support and cooperate with intelligence work directed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Officials Confirm India Nuclear Power Plant Hack: Following initial denials of any breach, officials from the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited now confirm that its Kudankulam Plant was exposed to malware; while it is unclear if any data was actually stolen, the attack has been attributed to North Korean state actors.

Intellectual Property

U.K. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over English Courts’ Jurisdiction To Set Global Licensing Rates For Multinational Patent Portfolios: Unwired Planet International, a U.S. firm that licenses patents related to wireless technology, won a ruling in the English courts that Huawei infringed various of its patents; the U.K.’s Supreme Court will now decide whether it is appropriate for the country’s courts to set global licensing rates in a case that will have international impact as to whether national courts can set the terms for global patent licenses. 

Free Expression and Censorship

Twitter Announces Ban On All Political Advertising: The ban, which takes effect on November 22, was announced amidst ongoing criticism of Facebook’s position on political advertising; Twitter’s ban will affect candidate ads and issue ads, but will not apply to ads encouraging voter registration.

Instagram Imposes Ban On Fictional Depictions Of Self-Harm: In response to public pressure, Instagram has expanded its ban on content depicting self-harm and suicide to include fictional portrayals, such as comics or memes; under the policy update, accounts that share self-harm-related content will not be featured on the platform’s search or explore functions. 

On the Lighter Side

California Man Enters Gubernatorial Race So He Can Run False Ads On Facebook: To protest Facebook’s policy of allowing politicians to run factually inaccurate ads, a San Francisco political activist is now running for Governor so he run his own false ads about Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, and other Facebook executives.

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
Lawrence Keating
Editorial Fellows