CLIP-ings: March 24, 2017

Internet Governance

Time Out, Law Enforcement! US lawmakers are drafting a bill that would restrict the FBI and nationwide police departments’ usage of a group of databases that use facial recognition technology to identify suspects, as the technology gives 15% false positives and there is currently only limited oversight of its usage.

No Traveling: In an effort to provide greater surveillance opportunities for security officials, both the US and UK have enacted new flight restrictions that will ban all travelers coming from certain Middle Eastern countries or traveling on certain Middle Eastern airlines from bringing their laptops and tablets in carry-on luggage, while cellphones are still allowed despite posing the same security risks.


An Infinite Shot Clock: Because a former Philadelphia police officer refused to comply with a federal court order demanding that he decrypt two hard drives seized by authorities from his home in 2015 that allegedly contain child pornography, he is being held indefinitely until he unlocks those drives, despite invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Defense Pays for Basket of Data: A company selling “smart” vibrators has agreed to a $3.75 million settlement after customers sued the company for violating Illinois privacy laws by collecting personal data on the devices’ usage, settings, battery life, and even temperature.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

The Madness of the March Toward Verification: Germany is currently testing voice recognition software to be used in screening refugees seeking asylum by recording a sample of the refugees’ speech and detecting where they come from; due to the fluidity and nuances of language, however, critics argue that the system may allow terrorists to sneak into the country by faking an accent, or otherwise refuse to authenticate those who are actual natives.

Police Seize Victory in Search for Attacker: In a bizarre cyber attack, a man was arrested for intentionally sending 40 tweets containing strobe light effects to a Newsweek journalist who suffered a seizure from viewing the epileptogenic image; in similar past cases, 700 Japanese children were rushed to the hospital after watching a certain Pokémon episode with similar effects, and hackers bombarded an epilepsy-support message board with such animations.

Intellectual Property

No Slam Dunks Here: Although a license agreement requires purchasers of John Deere tractor equipment to only use authorized dealerships and repair shops to fix their equipment, American farmers are increasingly turning to the black market of tractor hacking firmware because of the limitations that this license agreement presents.

Bracketing the Laches Defense: In a new Supreme Court decision regarding adult diapers, the Court has eliminated the application of the laches defense in patent infringement cases, holding that the reasonability of a plaintiff’s delay in bringing suit is irrelevant as long as the statute of limitations has not yet run.

Free Expression and Censorship

Out of Bounds: Pakistan’s government says that it wants all social media networks, especially Facebook, to take down material that is insulting to Islam or the Prophet Mohammad, as posting this content is a violation of the country’s blasphemy laws which are punishable by the death penalty.

YouTube Crossed the Foul Line: YouTube issued an apology after its optional restricted-mode filter blocked videos about LGBT issues, in what the site brushed off as a technical error, but which some affected content creators allege was intentional because some blocked videos did not discuss such issues and were appropriate for all ages.

Practice Note

Court Boxes Out 3D Printer: An appeals court has refused to rehear a case in which a 3D printing company that distributed instructions for creating weapons sued the State Department for prohibiting them from doing so; the court cited prior restraint as a valid argument for restricting the company, in light of national security concerns.

On the Lighter Side

I Need to Take a Shot: If you suffer from irregular bowel movements, you may want to avoid Beijing’s largest public restroom situated near the Temple of Heaven, where defecators must first pass a facial recognition scan in order to receive their standard 60 cm square of toilet paper which can be reissued to the same person only after nine minutes; this questionable new technology has been implemented to prevent senior citizens from stealing rolls for private residential use.

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