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 20, 2020

Internet Governance

Israel Turns To Cellphone Location Data To Fight Coronavirus: Israel’s internal security agency has received authorization to use cellphone location data to “retrace the movements of individuals who test positive for the virus, and identify others who should be quarantined”; reports suggest that government researchers in the United States have been in talks with tech companies such as Facebook and Google on how to leverage their users’ data to help curb the virus’s spread in the U.S.

EU Asks Streaming Services To Downgrade From High-Definition: European Union officials are asking online streaming platforms such as Netflix to switch to standard-definition streaming to preserve bandwidth and prevent strain on the internet’s functioning during a time when many are working and learning from home due to coronavirus-related quarantines or lockdowns.

Privacy

House FISA Bill Delayed After Senate Extends Existing Surveillance Tools: On Monday, the Senate agreed to extend for 77 days a set of existing government surveillance tools to gain time to review the House-approved USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020, which would update and renew domestic surveillance rules under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Security Firm Discovers Malware Disguised As Coronavirus-Tracking App: Mobile app security company Lookout discovered a malware app that mimics Johns Hopkins’ legitimate coronavirus-tracking app and allows attackers to access a device’s photos, videos, and location, as well as to enable its camera.

Free Expression and Censorship

Facebook Spam Filter Bug Blocks Legitimate Coronavirus News: Users who attempted to share legitimate news about coronavirus from outlets such as The Atlantic and The Times of Israel had their posts flagged as spam; Facebook contends that the issue arose as the result of a bug in the company’s spam filter.

TikTok Adds Content Advisory Council Following Content Suppression: The popular video-sharing app announced that a council of health and safety experts with expertise in areas such as misinformation, hate speech, and bullying will help form content policies for the app; the announcement comes after TikTok was discovered to have instructed its content moderators to suppress videos from users who appeared to be “too ugly or too poor.”

Practice Note

Department Of Health And Human Services Loosens HIPAA Penalties In Wake Of Coronavirus: To enable greater patient assessment while limiting the risk of infection through the use of telehealth services, the Department will waive penalties for violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that could otherwise result from medical professionals’ use of non-HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing services such as FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, and Skype.

On the Lighter Side

The Show Must Go On(line): Conan O’Brien will become the first of the late-night talk show hosts to attempt to return to the air from coronavirus-imposed self-isolation by filming his segment using an iPhone and dialing in guests via Skype.

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 13, 2020

Internet Governance

YouTube Allows Some Content Creators To Monetize Coronavirus Content: Reversing its previous position, YouTube will now allow select content creators, including news organizations and a “limited number of channels,” to display advertisements on coronavirus-related videos.

Thousands Of Political Ads On Facebook Had Inaccurate Payment Disclosures: A New York University study of the social media site’s Ad Library found over $37 million worth of political ads with inaccurate or misleading disclosures about the ads’ sponsors; over 19,000 ads were found to be posted by “inauthentic communities” comparable to the Internet Research Agency, the Russia-backed organization believed to be responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee email hack.

Privacy

U.S. House Votes To Approve Extension Of The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: The bill, which will now go to the Senate, extends key provisions of the Act allowing the FBI to investigate suspected terrorism or espionage by foreign powers; the bill also includes additional privacy protections and harsher penalties for violating the Act. 

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Cybercriminals Expected To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic: According to a RiskIQ study of past outbreaks and patterns of phishing and malware attacks, cyber-criminal activity using social engineering is expected to increase as a result of a heightening interest in coronavirus news.

Anonymous Secret Sharing App Left 900 Million User Records Exposed: Whisper, an app used by over 30 million people per month to anonymously post personal secrets, unintentionally exposed identifying user information—including that of children—on a searchable online database for years; the database, which included information such as age, location, ethnicity, and residence, has since been removed by Whisper.

Intellectual Property

EU Plans Expansive “Right To Repair” Electronics Legislation: In an attempt to curb electronic waste and “decoupl[e] economic growth from extraction of primary resources,” the European Commission plans to introduce legislation designed to compel electronics producers to “create products that last longer, include as many recycled materials as possible and are easier to reuse, repair and recycle.” 

Free Expression and Censorship

Biden Clip Prompts Twitter and Facebook To Apply Fact-Checking Labels: An edited video shared by President Trump in which former Vice President Biden appeared to say that Trump would be re-elected was labeled “partly false” by Facebook fact-checkers and also resulted in the first use of Twitter’s “manipulated video” tag.

On the Lighter Side

Wuhan Students Try To Kick Remote Learning App From App Store: In an inventive attempt to get out of their online classes spurred by coronavirus-related school closures, students in Wuhan bombarded the App Store with one-star reviews of remote learning app DingTalk because they mistakenly believed apps with one-star ratings would be taken off the App Store.

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