CLIP-ings: April 30, 2021

Internet Governance

Federal Court Could Review Trump’s Potential Interference In Awarding Of Military Contract: The Court of Federal Claims declined to dismiss Amazon’s claims alleging that the former President interfered to award Microsoft a $10 billion contract with the Defense Department to modernize the military’s cloud-computing systems until the court resolves a claim brought by Amazon alleging that it was overlooked during contract deliberations due to former President Trump’s animosity toward Jeff Bezos.

Privacy

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Feature Rolls Out: Apple’s latest iPhone update, which implements a new requirement that that app developers obtain consent before tracking users across apps and websites, has been released after nearly a year of delay; the feature has been touted as an “obvious baseline” by privacy advocates, while other stakeholders such as Facebook argue that it will make it more expensive for small businesses that rely on lucrative ad campaigns to easily target customers. 

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Defense Department Grants Control Of 175 Million Military IP Addresses To A Florida Startup: Shortly before former President Trump left the White House, the Defense Department gave 175 million dormant military IP addresses to a mysterious Florida startup founded in September 2020 as part of a “pilot effort” to study “potential vulnerabilities” in them, according to the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service.

DC’s Metropolitan Police Department Confirmed Data Breach Following A Ransomware Attack: The hackers, suspected of being the group Babuk, released screenshots of 250G of stolen data, which includes details about arrests made after the January Capitol riots and information about persons of interest and informants; the attack is believed to be part of a wider trend targeting government bodies, with twenty-six government agencies hit by ransomware attacks in this year.

Intellectual Property

UK Court Will Hear Copyright Infringement Suit Brought By Self-Proclaimed Bitcoin Inventor: London’s High Court agreed to hear a copyright infringement suit against the operator and publisher of bitcoin.org (known as Cobra) brought by Australian computer scientist Craig Wright, who proclaims to be the anonymous inventor of bitcoin and alleges that Cobra’s use of the bitcoin.org domain and its hosting of a white paper that outlines the technology behind the cryptocurrency violates copyright.

Free Expression & Censorship

Facebook And Twitter Censor Posts As India Suffers Through Another Wave Of Covid-19 Cases: Facebook India claims it blocked a hashtag calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi “by accident,” denying claims that the Indian government had requested that the tech company remove it; last weekend, Twitter was ordered by the Indian government to take down 52 tweets that criticized the government’s handling of the pandemic.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case That May Clarify Public School Students’ Off-Campus Free Speech Rights: In a case brought by a high school cheerleader who was banned from the cheerleading team after posting a profane photo of herself and a friend that was taken outside the school setting, the Supreme Court must weigh in on the extent to which public schools can discipline students for speech that occurs off-campus; the Court is expected to issue a ruling this summer that will clarify a 1969 precedent holding that students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

On the Lighter Side

“Disaster Girl” Becomes An NFT: The trending meme known as Disaster Girl, which depicts then-4-year-old Zoe Roth smiling devilishly in front of a burning building, has become an NFT and was sold by Roth for 180 Ethereum (currently, approximately $473,000).  

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: April 23, 2021

Internet Governance

New York State Will Offer Affordable Broadband Plans For Low-Income Households: Governor Cuomo signed a bill that caps the price of broadband options at $15 for regular broadband and $20 for high-speed broadband for those who qualify as low-income customers in New York, potentially benefiting over 7 million people in 2.7 million households.

Privacy

TikTok Sued For Violating Children’s Privacy In UK And European Union: A former Children’s Commissioner for England is representing the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit against TikTok before London’s High Court that alleges that the popular service illegally harvests children’s private information in violation of UK and European Union data protection law; if successful, the suit could lead to “billions of pounds” in damages against the company.

Senate Proposes To Ban Law Enforcement From Purchasing Data From Data Brokers Without Warrants: The proposed Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, which is supported by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would prohibit law enforcement agencies from purchasing from private companies and data brokers information that would otherwise require a warrant to obtain.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

MIT Researchers Advocate That Vaccine Passports Should Use “Dumb Technology”: Experts and organizations are proposing that fraud-proof vaccination credentials should be developed with simple technology that minimizes any external access to users’ sensitive information beyond their identity and vaccination status.

Facebook Hopes To Normalize Mass Data-Scraping: After over 500 million users’ phone numbers were exposed online in January, leaked internal documents reveal that the social media giant expects more scraping incidents in the long term and that it plans to attempt to “normalize” incidents involving data scraping activity.

Free Expression & Censorship

U.S. Postal Service Tracks And Shares American’s Social Media Posts: As part of a secret surveillance effort, the Postal Service’s law enforcement arm has been monitoring social media posts for “inflammatory” content related to “planned protests occurring domestically and internationally” and distributing findings to other government agencies; experts are puzzled about why the Postal Service has been engaging in social media surveillance. 

Practice Note

FTC Issues Guidance On Selling And Using Racist Algorithms: In a recent blog post, the Commission suggested that selling or using algorithms that produce discriminatory outcomes could qualify as an unfair or deceptive practice and could potentially be the subject of enforcement.

On the Lighter Side

Amazon Opens Augmented Reality Hair Salon: The company has opened Amazon Salon in the UK, where clients can use an augmented reality app to try on different hair styles before committing to a cut.

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: April 16, 2021

Internet Governance

Secret Google Project Benefitted Company’s Own Ad-Buying System Using Historical Bid Data: An inadvertently unredacted document filed in response to an antitrust lawsuit in Texas revealed that Google secretly operated “Project Bernanke,” which leveraged past bid data collected from advertisers using its digital advertising exchange to benefit its own ad system, allegedly creating an “unfair competitive advantage over rivals” and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Privacy

Virginia Bill Bans Use And Purchase Of Facial Recognition Technology For Most Police Departments: House Bill 2031, which bars local police departments in the state from using or buying facial-recognition technology without legislative approval, will go into effect on July 1; airport police and Virginia State Police, however, are not covered under the ban.

Apple And Google Reject UK’s Covid-19 Test And Trace App Update: Both tech companies rejected the NHS’s latest update because it allowed the app to ask users to log venue check-ins after testing positive for the virus, which required the collection of information about users’ location—a function that the two firms explicitly banned in their agreements with health authorities using their contact-tracing software.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Treasury Department Sanctions Russia For Election Interference And Hacking: In response to interference in the 2020 election and participation in the SolarWinds hack, President Biden signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Russia; under the order, the Treasury Department sanctioned 32 entities and individuals for “carrying out Russian government-directed attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election” and blacklisted six Russian companies for providing support to the Russian intelligence agency for its cyber activities.

Man Charged With Plotting To Blow Up Amazon Data Center: A Texas man’s plot to “kill off about 70% of the internet” by blowing up an Amazon data center in Virginia was foiled by the F.B.I after a concerned citizen provided police with the individual’s email address and “alarming” statements that he posted on a forum used for organizing militia groups.

Free Expression & Censorship

Facebook Loophole Enables Global Politicians To Fabricate Popular Support: A former Facebook employee alleges that a loophole in the platform allows governments and politicians to create fake supporters to amplify the appearance of popularity and criticize opponents using Facebook’s Pages feature, and that the company selectively responds to instances of such activities based on public relations risk.

Practice Note

Leaked Draft Proposal Reveals That EU Might Ban Some Uses Of Artificial Intelligence: The document proposes regulation that would prohibit AI use for mass surveillance and social credit scoring, and would require member states to implement assessment boards to test high-risk AI systems; policymakers plan to officially announce the draft proposal on April 21.

On the Lighter Side

Elon Musk’s Neuralink Trains Monkey To Play “Mind Pong” With Brain-Chip Implant: The brain-chip startup released a video of a monkey playing a Pong-like video game totally hands-free and using only its thoughts after having chips implanted in its motor cortex, regions that coordinate hand and arm movements in the brain.

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: April 9, 2021

Internet Governance

Justice Thomas Criticizes Digital Platforms’ Moderation Powers: In a concurring opinion to a decision that vacated a previous ruling finding former President Trump’s blocking of Twitter users unconstitutional, Justice Thomas argued that the “concentrated control” of Big Tech gives digital platforms too much control over speech moderation decisions and that protections afforded by Section 230 should be “pared back.”

Privacy

Apple’s New Privacy Feature Rejects Apps That Collect User Data Without Consent: As part of Apple’s effort to implement its new App Tracking Transparency program, which allows users to opt out of being tracked, the company has begun to reject apps that use software development kits (SDKs) that employ methods such as device fingerprinting to track users across the web without their consent for deep analysis or advertising purposes.

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Private Data From 533 Million Facebook Accounts Exposed Online: The personal data of Facebook users in 106 countries, including their email addresses and telephone numbers, was leaked for free after being harvested through an underreported vulnerability that was discovered and purportedly fixed in 2019.

Trump Campaign Used Dark Patterns To Scam Users To Donate More Money Than Intended: By using deceptive user interface designs such as pre-checked checkboxes and buried fine print, the Trump campaign tricked donors into making recurring weekly or monthly donations instead of intended one-time donations; last month, California banned certain dark patterns, and other lawmakers and regulators have taken steps to curb their use.

Intellectual Property

Google’s Use Of Oracle’s APIs Constituted Fair Use: The Supreme Court decided that Google’s use of Oracle’s application programming interfaces to develop the Android platform  amounted to a non-infringing, “fundamentally transformative use,” thus ending the decade-long dispute between the two companies.

Free Expression & Censorship

Twitch’s New Policy Will Take Disciplinary Actions Based On Off-Platform Misconduct: The company’s updated Off-Service Conduct Policy announces that the platform will investigate users’ off-service or offline offenses, including violent or terroristic acts, as part of its enforcement of its Hateful Conduct and Harassment policy, which is designed in part to ensure the Twitch Community’s safety.

Practice Note

Supreme Court Sides With Facebook And Narrows The Scope Of Federal Robocalls Ban: In an unanimous decision, the Court adopted a narrow reading of the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act and ruled that the notification system Facebook employs to text users about suspicious logins does not run afoul of the Act, which is designed to curb robocalls and automated texts.

On the Lighter Side

As Yahoo Answers Shuts Down, Users Save The Best “Bad” Questions For Posterity: The question-and-answer platform, a place to which people often turned to ask embarrassing questions they didn’t want to ask friends and family, is shutting down forever after being active for more than 15 years.

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows

CLIP-ings: April 2, 2021

Internet Governance

Congress Questioned Big Tech About Spread Of Misinformation: During the five-hour congressional hearing in which the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified regarding their platforms’ handling of misinformation and extremism, only Jack Dorsey acknowledged that Twitter might have played a part in spreading misinformation that contribution to the January 6th Capital riot, while Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai avoided answering the question directly; other questions focused on the spread of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation on the platforms. 

Privacy

Google Begins Origin Trial To Replace Third-Party Tracking Cookies With FLoC Alternative: The tech company has started testing its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) technology as a replacement for third-party tracking cookies so that ad companies can continue targeting specific demographics while protecting targeted users’ identities; FLoC, which runs locally, analyzes browsing data to group users into cohorts with shared interests so that advertisers may deliver relevant ads without necessitating the use of tracking cookies or the sharing of browsing data with Google. 

Information Security & Cyberthreats

Mobile Carriers Fixed SMS Routing Loophole To Prevent Hacking: After an investigation revealed that hackers could pay as little as $16 to reroute SMS text messages then leverage that access to break into online accounts, major carriers such as T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T have begun to take measures to patch the security vulnerability. 

Twitter Bans Fake Amazon Accounts Impersonating Warehouse Employees: As the union vote count by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama is underway, a series of anti-union tweets from several Twitter accounts praised Amazon’s working conditions; the company has since confirmed that many of the accounts are fake accounts that violate Twitter’s terms. 

Intellectual Property

Facebook Video Creators Claim The Platform Shorted Them Thousands of Dollars In Its Revenue-Sharing Model: Several Facebook video creators have been receiving monthly payments for their content that are inconsistent with projections provided by the company’s revenue estimation tool for content creators; Facebook has since apologized, citing “a technical issue” that has prevented certain video creators from receiving their full payouts. 

Free Expression & Censorship

Apple’s Latest iOS Update Fixes Bug That Blocks Web Searches Including The Term “Asian”: The iOS 14.5 Beta version that was released to developers last week remedies a year-old bug that blocks web searches including the term “asian” when the device’s adult-content filter is engaged; the bug became apparent as searches for “Stop Asian Hate” increased in the wake of anti-Asian violence across the country. 

Facebook Removed Lara Trump’s Interview With Donald Trump: After blocking Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following the Capitol riot in January, Facebook recently removed a post by Lara Trump in which she interviews the former President.

On the Lighter Side

An Alleged Italian Mafia Fugitive Arrested After Posting Cooking Tutorials Online: The fugitive, who was hiding from Italian police in the Dominican Republic, was identified by his tattoos in the cooking tutorials he posted on YouTube.  

Olivier Sylvain
Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Erica Chan

Junyi Cui

Editorial Fellows