CLIP-ings: December 15, 2017

Internet Governance

NYC Against the Machine: The New York City Council approved a first-of-its-kind bill to create a task force made up of various fairness, accountability, transparency and non-profit experts to review NYC agencies’ use of algorithms; the task force will develop a set of recommendations addressing when and how to make the algorithms public, how to assess the algorithms’ biases, the impact of such biases, and how to document and archive the algorithms and their training data.

The Net Dynamic Duo: As the FCC works towards repealing the Obama-era Open Internet Order, it released a Memo of Understanding detailing how the agency along with the FTC will share jurisdiction over ISPs and meet regularly to discuss open investigations against ISPs; the memo highlights the ISPs’ required disclosures, the FCC’s role—to monitor broadband market entry barriers, review consumer complaints, and take actions for improper public disclosure of any throttling, blocking or prioritization practices—and the FTC’s role in regulating ISPs for “marketing, advertising or promotional activities deemed deceptive, unfair or unlawful.”


(Major)ity Report: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wants to implement sophisticated biometrics authentication to its visa, green card, and naturalization programs in an effort to prevent fraud and save money in labor costs; the agency “expects formal rules on the use of voice, iris and rapid DNA identification by March 2019” and hopes to use the biometrics data to authenticate users online and in person and to verify familial links.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Starbucks’ Little Secret: A customer in a Starbucks store in Argentina found that the store had a ten-second delay when allowing patrons to connect to the in-store Wi-Fi which the store used to mine cryptocurrencies using the customer’s laptop; Starbucks announced that it had addressed the issue but a cybersecurity expert highlights this as an example of the risks incurred when using public Wi-Fi networks.

Searchable Dump: In the largest data dump to date, over 1.4 billion email addresses and unencrypted passwords have been found in an underground community forum with the anonymous compiler accepting cryptocurrency donations to allow downloads of the data; the data dump features search tools and scripts to import the data into databases thus simplifying the accessibility and usage of the information.

Intellectual Property

Conventional: A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California found in favor of San Diego’s Comic-Con (SDCC) in its trademark action against the founders of Salt Lake City’s Comic Con over their use of “Comic Con” in describing the Utah event; SDCC argued that “Comic-Con” was a brand name while defendants argued that the mark had been diluted.

Free Expression and Censorship

Ask Your Parents, Please: As part of a newly proposed French data privacy bill, the French government aims to require parental approval before children under the age of 16 open a social media account despite concerns about the enforceability of such requirement.

“Alt-Tech” Flaws: As mainstream sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube increase the monitoring of online hate speech and suspend users from their platforms, alternative online sites have emerged to allow the Alt-Right movement to express their views without being censored; however, the sites are far from the “alt-tech” dream due to technical inferiorities caused by lack of available resources with many of the sites having few users, “long load times, broken links, and frequent error messages.”

Practice Note

Judge, Do Not Google That: According to a new ABA ethics opinion, judges may risk violating ethical rules if they conduct online research for “adjudicative facts”­—facts concerning the parties or the subject matter of the ligation at hand—but judges may still conduct online legal research for cases not cited by the parties and for facts subject to judicial notice because they are generally known and not subject to reasonable dispute; the opinion further contends that a judge’s online research of a lawyer in a case may be allowed if done “merely to become familiar with counsel” or to determine the lawyer’s status to practice in the jurisdiction but may not be allowed if a judge’s “independent research about a lawyer…is done to affect the judge’s weighing or considering [of] adjudicative facts.”

On The Lighter Side

Netflix 1984: Netflix reminds some users that it is always watching their every move.

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

Idalys Núñez
Dean’s Fellow, Fordham CLIP