Blocker Ban: A federal court in Virginia has ruled that the chairwoman of a county board violated the First Amendment rights of a constituent she blocked on Facebook, concluding that the official suppressed “critical commentary regarding elected officials” and raising questions as to the constitutional limitations of social media accounts maintained by public officials.
Exchange Enforcement: A Bitcoin exchange called BTC-e was shut down by law enforcement after its operator was charged not only with stealing the equivalent of $400 million in Bitcoin that lead to the bankruptcy of another exchange but also with using BTC-e to launder the proceeds from criminals engaged in drug trafficking and ransomware attacks.
Sneaky Stingray: Reports of surveillance technologies designed for spying and wartime purposes being used on the American public, such as “stingray” devices that can intercept cell phone data from unknowing users, has lead to calls for greater transparency in Congress as to their use and legality.
Going Private: While Twitter lost two million U.S. users last month, WhatsApp now boasts over a billion users per day in the latest example of a user preference for “privateness” that favors encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger over less secure public platforms such as Twitter.
Family-Fony Fun: A recent study found that over half of the 5,000 most popular games designated as family-friendly on the Google Play store violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) because they tracked or collected the personal data of its users who are primarily children under the age of 13.
Information Security and Cyberthreats
Bill for Basics: In response to the tendency for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to ship without security features, such as hardcoded passwords that cannot be changed by a user, two senators proposed a new bill that would require IoT device manufacturers to include basic security protections in the devices and certify that the devices are free of vulnerabilities at the time they are sold.
Public Data Doubts: LinkedIn and small tech company HiQ are engaged in a battle over HiQ’s alleged violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA); while LinkedIn argues that website owners have the authority to rescind another’s access to their site on a case-by-case basis, HiQ believes that its behaviors were legal because it was accessing public data from a publicly accessible website.
Patent Exchange: A patent advisory and transaction firm is looking to create a new marketplace in which venture-backed startups in need of funding provide equity to big technology companies in exchange for patents that the larger firms no longer need, as a way to encourage startups to think about patent strategy and larger firms to put dormant patents to better use.
Trademark Troublemakers: The Trademark Trial Appeal Board (TTAB) must reconsider a case of Dale Earnhardt’s widow challenging her stepson’s attempt to register the name “Earnhardt Collection” because the TTAB did not determine whether the trademark was descriptive, the first step in deciding if a surname is unregistrable; meanwhile, NYC based-makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis (KW) is suing Kim Kardashian-West (KKW) over the name of her cosmetics line because KW believes that KKW is engaging in unfair competition, infringing on KW’s four initial-bearing logo trademarks, and causing consumer confusion regarding KW’s high-end organic beauty line.
Free Expression and Censorship
National Censorship Athletic Association? A student with a successful athletics-related and monetized YouTube account has lost his full-ride scholarship to play football at the University of Central Florida because he did not answer a negotiation ultimatum from the NCAA that attempted to mitigate his imminent violation of the NCAA rule that prohibits a student athlete from profiting from his or her status.
Free Internet Fail: A study found that Facebook’s free internet service, Free Basics, provides internet access to 63 countries in Asia, Africa and South America but prevents access to Facebook’s competitor’s sites and local sites, and limits access to about a thousand sites of U.S. and U.K. companies.
Barricading the Bench: As cybercriminals look for new targets to launch their attacks, the need for robust cybersecurity infrastructure must extend into the courtroom, where confidential proceedings take place and secure data management frameworks are now essential to ensure the proper administration of justice.
On The Lighter Side
Enhanced Exposure: A new specially developed VR technology improves the effects of exposure therapy, according to a study conducted by therapists on their patients which shows that the tech allows patients to truly address phobias and similar conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder.
Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP
N. Cameron Russell
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP