CLIP-ings: January 29, 2021

Internet Governance

Facebook Content Oversight Board Announces First Round Of Rulings: The board, which was established last year to review content moderation decisions for the social network, overruled four out of five of Facebook’s decisions to remove posts containing hate speech, the incitement of violence, misinformation, and adult nudity; the board is also set to soon rule on Facebook’s recent decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Privacy

WhatsApp Implements Biometric Authentication For Desktop Logins: The messaging service announced that users who employ biometric authentication to access the app on their phones will now be required to authenticate access to the phone app before logging into the web browser or desktop versions of the service; the move is intended to ensure that anyone who might obtain access to another’s phone cannot link the phone user’s account to their own web browser.

CCPA Inspires Global Privacy Opt-Out Standard: Provisions in the California Consumer Privacy Act that provide consumers a right to opt-out of having their personal information sold by websites they visit have given rise to a new privacy standard, known as Global Privacy Control, which is designed to function as a single-click, automated global opt-out mechanism that enables internet users to signify to sites that they don’t want their data collected and shared.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Data Breaches Down In 2020: A report from the Identity Theft Research Center indicates that there were fewer data breaches in 2020 than in previous years, but that cyber criminals were still able to run lucrative schemes by leveraging previously stolen data or engaging in ransomware attacks; according to the report, the approximately 1,100 data breaches in 2020 affected 300 million individuals—but those numbers do not account for yet-unknown incidents or recent attacks for which the full impact is still uncertain, such as the SolarWinds hack.

Free Expression and Censorship

Stock-Talk Channels Suspended, Reinstated, In Wake Of GameStop Stock Run: Instant messaging service Discord banned the WallStreetBets server for allegedly hosting “occasional content that violates [its] Community Guidelines,” but is now working with a WallStreetBets team to moderate a new server; similarly, the WallStreetBets subreddit went private for a period of time due to “technical difficulties based on the unprecedented scale as a result of the newfound interest in” the forum.

Facebook To Stop Recommending Political And Civic Groups: As part of an effort to prevent “fighting and politics” from taking over its platform and “to make sure the communities people connect with are healthy and positive,” Facebook announced that it would stop recommending “political and civic groups” among the types of pages for users to follow.

Practice Note

2016 Election Misinformation Spreader Charged With Voter Suppression: Federal authorities charged the alt-right figure who went by the pseudonym Ricky Vaughn with conspiracy to “disseminate misinformation designed to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote” during the 2016 election cycle by, among other things, designing meme-based misinformation campaigns that encouraged people to vote using illegitimate methods, such as by posting their votes on Facebook or Twitter or through text messages; the use of social media messages in this case could amount to a “tectonic shift in how the federal government tries to enforce laws against election interference.” 

On the Lighter Side

Spotify Wants To Know How You’re Feeling: A patent for speech-recognition technology granted to the music streaming service would enable it to detect listeners’ emotions and recommend appropriate music based on characteristics of listeners’ speech, including “intonation, stress, [and] rhythm.” 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

CLIP-ings: January 22, 2021

Internet Governance

Google Acquired Fitbit Despite Antitrust Investigation: Google closed its $2.1 billion takeover of Fitbit as a step to improve its hardware business despite ongoing antitrust investigation of the acquisition, leaving open the possibility that the U.S. Department of Justice might sue to unwind the completed deal in the future; regulators and consumer groups around the world have voiced privacy and antitrust concerns about the deal since as early as when it was announced in 2019.

Facebook And Google Allegedly Engaged In “Sweetheart Deal” To Promote Digital Advertising: Documents from Texas’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook and Google reveal that the two tech giants might have reached an agreement in 2018 to reduce competition in the digital advertising space that gave Facebook preferential treatment in ad header bidding and also insight into its ad audiences.

Privacy

Facebook Settles Class Action Suit Alleging Violations Of Illinois Biometric Data Law: Facebook will pay a total of $650 million in settlement fees to 1.6 million users in Illinois for collecting their facial data without their informed consent to support its “tag suggestions” feature, in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act; if Facebook had proceeded to trial and lost, it could have been liable for up to $35 billion, given statutory penalties of $1,000 for each accidental violation, or $5,000 for each knowing violation of the Act.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Data Breach Of Parler Revealed Videos Filmed Near Law Enforcement Buildings And Military Bases In The U.S.: GPS data analysis of videos posted on the Parler app, which was one of the online forums used to plan the attack on the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month, revealed that more than a hundred of the videos were filmed within 50 to 1,000 feet of law enforcement buildings, military bases, and an immigrant detention center; although some videos captured benign activities of officers, experts warn against the threat of officers’ potential exposure to extremist ideologies.

Intellectual Property

Trump Pardons Former Google Engineer Who Pleaded Guilty To Stealing Trade Secrets: Hours before leaving office, President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski, the former engineer who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets related to Google’s self-driving car project.

Free Expression and Censorship

President Of The European Commission Calls For U.S. To Regulate Big Tech: After recounting the storming of the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month, President von der Leyen warned that hate speech and disinformation can undermine democratic institutions, and called for Europe and the U.S to impose “democratic limits on the untrammelled and uncontrolled political power of the internet giants.”

For Many Americans, Trust In Traditional Media Is Disappearing: According to Edelman’s annual trust barometer report, only 46% of Americans trust traditional media while 56% agree with the statement that “[j]ournalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

On the Lighter Side

Biden Administration Recruits IT Experts Through Easter Egg In White House Website’s Source Code: After Joe Biden was sworn in as President this past Wednesday, Twitter users found a comment tag in the source code of the updated whitehouse.gov website that linked viewers to the hiring page of the U.S. Digital Service, the federal unit created to “deliver better government services to the American people through technology and design.” 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan
Junyi Cui
Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: January 15, 2021

Internet Governance

Google Hides Links To Certain News Sites From Search Results In Australia: Google has removed links to stories by the Guardian Australia, the Australian, and the Sydney Morning Herald from search results in the country, purportedly as part of “experiments” designed to “measure the impacts of news businesses and Google Search on each other”; others, however, view the move as reaction to the Australian government’s recent proposal that would require Google and others to share advertising revenue with the country’s news publishers.

Airbnb Blocks D.C. Bookings For Inauguration: In light of warnings about potentially violent protests in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere on Inauguration Day, Airbnb has cancelled all reservations and is blocking new requests for stays in the D.C. area in the days around January 20th; the site is also assisting law enforcement with identifying users who were “involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol building” last week.

Privacy

Flo App Settles With FTC Over Sharing User Data: The fertility and period-tracking app with over 100 million users allegedly shared details about users’ menstrual cycles and intentions to become pregnant with third-party analytics and marketing services, including Facebook and Google, without allowing users to block the sharing; under the settlement’s terms, Flo must notify affected users that their data was shared and ensure that third-party recipients destroy affected users’ data.

TikTok Enhances Privacy For Younger Users: As part of several efforts designed to improve privacy for children who use the app, TikTok will make the accounts of users under 16 private by default; other changes involve limiting who can comment on children’s posts and restricting the use of certain collaborative features by children.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Ring Debuts End-to-end Encryption: After improving its privacy and security settings by, among other things, implementing a Control Center dashboard and requiring two-factor authentication, the home security company will now add end-to-end encryption to its doorbells and video cameras.

Free Expression and Censorship

Snapchat Among Latest Platforms To Ban Trump: “In the interest of public safety,” the app permanently banned Trump for “clear violations of [its] guidelines,” including “attempts to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incite violence”; similarly, YouTube, “in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence” leading up to Inauguration Day, removed content recently uploaded to Trump’s channel and will ban the uploading of new content to it until at least January 19th.

Practice Note

ABA Ethics Committee Publishes Guidance About Attorney Response To Negative Online Reviews: In a Formal Opinion, the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility iterates the importance of maintaining client confidentiality and offers a set of best practices for responding to online reviews.

On the Lighter Side

Lost Password Could Lead To Lost Fortune: A man who lost the password to a hard drive containing $240 million worth of Bitcoin has two more login attempts left before the hard drive encrypts itself and becomes permanently inaccessible. 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

CLIP-ings: January 8, 2021

Internet Governance

U.S. Department Of Labor Issues Final Rule For Classifying Employees And Independent Contractors: The rule, which could help companies in the gig economy to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, identifies two “core factors” for drawing the distinction—the “nature and degree of control over the work” and the “opportunity for profit or loss”—plus additional “guideposts” to aid in analysis.

Trump Administration Cracks Down On Chinese Apps And Software In Final Days: Via an executive order issued on January 5th, Trump has banned transactions with eight Chinese apps and software services that “can access and capture vast swaths of information from users.”

Privacy

App Developers Seek Workaround To Forthcoming Apple Privacy Update: In response to an iPhone update that will prevent apps from tracking identifiers for advertising purposes without user consent, app developers are exploring the use of techniques such as device fingerprinting and email hashing to subvert the new policy.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

U.S. Government Officially Blames Russia For SolarWinds Hack: A joint statement by the FBI, the NSA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that “an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actor, likely Russian in origin, is responsible for most or all of the recently discovered, ongoing cyber compromises of both government and non-governmental networks”; this week, it was reported that Department of Justice email accounts were also affected by the attack.

Intellectual Property

Facebook Fined In Italy For Stealing App’s Tech: An Italian court of appeals upheld a decision that Facebook copied the Faround app, which presented Facebook users with an interactive map of nearby stores, to launch its own, similar Nearby Places app; the decision highlights concerns about unfair competition, noting that Facebook had “privileged and early access” to the Faround app to test whether it was compatible with its platform.

Free Expression and Censorship

Facebook Locks Trump’s Account “Indefinitely”: After the President’s account was temporarily locked in the wake of Wednesday’s unrest on Capitol Hill, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the account will now be locked “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.

Practice Note

Italian Court Finds That Food Delivery Service App Deliveroo’s Algorithm Is Discriminatory: The court concluded that the algorithm, which determines rider “reliability” based on cancellation data, is discriminatory because it fails to take into account reasons for cancellation and thereby “unjustly penalizes riders with legally legitimate reasons for not working”; the decision is seen as a landmark one, as it creates precedent for subjecting algorithms to judicial review and placing liability on companies that employ even unintentionally discriminatory algorithms.

On the Lighter Side

Covid-19 Vaccine Meme Electrifies The Internet: Online jokesters and conspiracy theorists alike have shared a diagram of schematics purported to be that of a chip injected into people who receive the Covid-19 vaccine—but it’s really just the circuitry for a guitar effect pedal. 

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP