CLIP-ings: November 15, 2019

Internet Governance

Government Demands For Facebook User Data Reach A New High: The number of demands rose 16% during the first half of this year compared to the previous six months—the highest recorded amount since Facebook began reporting the figure in 2013; more than two-thirds of U.S. government requests came with gag orders preventing Facebook from notifying users their data had been sought.


Whistleblower Reveals Secret Transfer Of Medical Data To Google From Healthcare Provider: Leaked documents show that the U.S.’s second largest healthcare provider, Ascension, is planning to transfer the medical records of up to 50 million Americans to Google under Project Nightingale; more than 10 million records, which have not been de-identified, have already passed to Google with no effort to notify patients or doctors.

Suspicionless Border Searches Held Unlawful: The District of Massachusetts decided that customs agents’ longstanding practice of searching travelers’ electronic devices without a warrant or reasonable suspicion of a crime violates the Fourth Amendment; the number of searches, which can require travelers to disclose any social media accounts, has been steadily increasing in recent years.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

WhatsApp Makes Novel Legal Argument In Anti-Hacking Lawsuit: The complaint alleges that Israeli cyber-surveillance firm NSO Group Technologies bypassed WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption by hacking the phones of WhatsApp users to obtain already-decrypted messages; WhatsApp contends that NSO falsely agreed to WhatsApp’s terms of service and breached the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by using its servers to stage the attack, even though the users’ phones—not WhatsApp’s servers—were the target of the attacks. 

Intellectual Property

Supreme Court Will Consider “” Trademark Case: The USPTO, which is appealing a Fourth Circuit decision allowing the trademark, argues that the mere addition of “.com” to the generic word “booking” does not make the name distinctive.

USPTO Seeks Comments On AI’s Effect On Copyright Law: Questions posed by the USPTO in the Federal Register seek to address difficult issues related to content created by AI without human contribution, including authorship, ownership, and how to treat potential copyright infringement by AI.

Free Expression and Censorship

Facebook, YouTube Remove Content Naming Alleged Trump Impeachment Whistleblower: Following a recent decision to remove political ads featuring the whistleblower’s name, Facebook is now removing other content purporting to name the whistleblower on the basis that the content violates the platform’s rules against coordinating harm; Twitter, in contrast, has stated that tweeting the name does not violate the platform’s rules.

On the Lighter Side

20 Hacks Of IT Provider Discovered Only After Hacker Maxes Out Provider’s Storage: The FTC is suing Utah-based InfoTrax Systems for failing to detect the 20 attacks which took place over a 22-month period and allowed the hacker to access the data of 1 million customers.

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