Reach for the Sta—Appropriate Celestial Object: After the Department of Homeland Security designated state election systems as “critical infrastructure,” thereby granting these systems the protection of the federal government, the National Association of Secretaries of State recently voted to oppose the designation, as they claim that the federal government is reaching beyond its permissible scope of authority.
Meet the Bride of Chucky: The German Federal Network Agency has ordered a doll on the market called “My Friend Cayla” to be destroyed because it violates German telecom law prohibiting “concealed transmitting devices;” the toy contains a speaker and microphone that allow children to ask questions which the doll answers based on internet searches through an unsecure Wi-Fi connection, sparking privacy, data collection, and information security concerns.
Dark Vessels, Ghost Nets, and Illegal Fish, Oh My! In an effort to save ocean life from illegal fishing, the nonprofit group SkyTruth has formed an alliance with private satellite company DigitalGlobe to track pirates across the world by using satellite data taken from the automatic identification system (AIS)—usually used to locate ships—and then analyzing heat maps to find patterns of suspicious activity over the vast ocean, which helps locate pirate ships that have turned off their AIS signals.
Information Security and Cyberthreats
You Drive Me Crazy: Due to the absence of a factory reset option, mobile applications that car owners can use to access their vehicles from their phones still allow previous owners to access their cars long after they have sold their vehicles to a new owner, in a privacy glitch discovered by an IBM researcher.
Operation BugDrop: Using Dropbox and phishing emails containing infected Microsoft Word attachments, hackers have gathered over 600 GB of data from 70 organizations—including an international organization, an engineering company, a research institute, newspaper editors, and a company that designs monitoring systems for critical infrastructure—mainly in Ukraine, a country that has already suffered two power outages caused by hackers in less than two years.
Shiver Me Timbers! Beginning this summer, Google and Bing will implement a new UK code of practice to hasten the process of taking down sites with pirated content and putting sites with legitimate content at the top of search results, making pirated content more difficult for internet users to find.
Trump™: Despite China’s Trademark Office initially rejecting Donald Trump’s registration for the “Trump” trademark back in 2006—due to China having a “first-to-file” system and the trademark already belonging to a prior Chinese registrant—in April 2016 the Review Board suddenly invalidated the former registration and transferred the trademark to the President instead, in what may be a violation of the Emoluments Clause; the President immediately applied for 49 other trademarks after this decision.
Free Expression and Censorship
A Brand New Censor: The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is using a tracking page to brand news articles that supposedly contain false information with a large red “FAKE” stamp, although the Russian government’s only explanation for why these articles from major US and UK sources, such as the New York Times and the Telegraph, are being stamped is a line on the government’s own state-run news agency reading, “This material contains data, not corresponding to the truth.”
Condoning Pedophilia? The Conservative Political Action Conference has rescinded its invitation to British public speaker and former editor of Breitbart News, Milo Yiannopoulos, after a conservative news feed recently tweeted an early-2016 podcast in which Yiannopoulos can be heard victim-blaming 13-year-old boys who are raped by older women, despite alleging that he himself was a child abuse victim.
A Punny Lawsuit: Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres recently won a defamation suit filed by a real estate agent after her show mocked an advertisement bearing the plaintiff’s name, Titi Pierce, and phone number, which had prompted viewers to menacingly call the plaintiff’s office to make fun of her; the court ruled that the mispronunciation of the plaintiff’s name could not support a defamation claim.
On the Lighter Side
BS-ing 101: The University of Washington is now offering a new course called “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data,” which will teach students the vital skill of detecting false information; though the 160-person class is already filled up, the public may be given access to the online syllabus and lectures.
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