CLIP-ings: February 17, 2017

Internet Governance

The Spy Who Loved Me: In the UK, proposals for a new Espionage Act have been drafted without consultation with free speech organizations, even though this new law could jail and classify journalists and whistleblowers in the same category as spies for communicating, gathering, or even just obtaining classified information.

No Love for Immigrants: In response to the recent deportations of undocumented immigrants and the Muslim travel ban, the governors’ offices of all 50 states were asked about their positions on sharing immigration data with the federal government, with the results that three expressed taking active measures against it, while 47 declined to respond, gave vague responses, or expressed their support.


You Just Keep on Pushing My Love over the Borderline: Travelers who have been stopped by border agents at American airports are reportedly being asked by Homeland Security to unlock their phones or laptops and turn over their social media passwords; despite that these agents have wider authority to search travelers at the airport than do police officers on the street, these demands are technically unlawful and requests for legal assistance are being met with great hostility.

Caught in Cupid’s Cross-Browser: Currently, websites are only able to track visitors based on a digital fingerprint embedded in a single browser, but a new mechanism called (Cross-)Browser Fingerprinting would allow websites to track visitors to a site when they use an additional browser in their device’s background; although this new technique raises privacy concerns, fingerprinting can also help enhance users’ security, for instance by alerting a user if a bank account has been logged into from a new computer.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

That PLC Needs Some TLC: At the recent RSA cybersecurity conference, a Georgia Tech PhD student demonstrated that the current landscape of industrial control systems, including water treatment, oil, and gas plants, can be easily hacked, as they are built with programmable logic controllers (PLCs)— small, specialized computers that are designed to control factory processes but that are oftentimes connected to other computers online, leaving the PLCs and therefore these industrial systems open to third party attacks.

A Date with the President: During a dinner at a private club with the Japanese Prime Minister, the President discussed classified information and allowed guests to use their phones; this lack of restriction enabled aides to direct their phones at the documents to help the President read them and a club member to take photos with the man carrying the “nuclear football,” which was later posted on Facebook.

Intellectual Property

Don’t Get All Sentimental On Me: Google has revealed that it has received website takedown requests for billions of URLs in a recent transparency report, showing a very large increase from last year; these high numbers are due mostly to a rise in piracy and websites requesting that copyright-infringing content be removed, especially in light of the recent decision of US internet service providers to vacate their piracy warning system.

A Bouquet of Images: The public can now download and freely use 375,000 high-resolution images of public domain artwork without any fear of copyright infringement under a Creative Commons Zero designation, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Free Expression and Censorship

Let’s Just Be Friends: After a Facebook user continued to receive text message notifications from Facebook despite opting out, he sued the social media platform, alleging a violation of the federal Telephone Communications Privacy Act, while Facebook’s so far rejected defense has been that the TCPA is unconstitutional as a content-based restriction on speech.

Hell Hath No Fury Like An Industry Scorned: In Mexico—Coca-Cola’s biggest consumer market—nutrition activists, policymakers, and government employees who have been campaigning to double the national soda tax in order to combat childhood obesity have received threatening anonymous text messages after their phones were infected with government spyware provided by an Israeli cyber arms dealer called the NSO Group.

Practice Note

Will You Be My Herbalentine? Although Iowa State University initially allowed NORML, a student-run marijuana advocacy group, to create a T-shirt with the school’s trademark beside the group’s name, the school subsequently disallowed the group from printing any additional shirts after receiving a “formal legislative inquiry” from an Iowa legislature GOP staffer about whether the school’s Trademark Office had approved the shirt; what followed was a lawsuit where the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found a First Amendment violation, claiming that the university’s refusal to reprint the shirts was motivated by viewpoint discrimination.

On the Lighter Side

A Broken Heart: A man with several medical conditions was charged with arson and insurance fraud after his story of jumping through a broken window to flee his burning home while still finding time to pack and carry his belongings was found to be inconsistent with the data on his pacemaker.

Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law and Founding Academic Director, CLIP

N. Cameron Russell
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Editorial Fellows, CLIP
Nadia Kashem
Meghna Prasad