CLIP-ings: February 2, 2018

Internet Governance

Faux Followers: Citing concerns about impersonation and deception, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation into Devumi, a company—and the subject of a recent New York Times exposé—that allegedly sells automated Twitter followers, some of them using real users’ identities, to celebrities, businesses, and anyone willing to pay for a bigger social media following.

SEC Halts ICO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) obtained a court order to freeze the assets of Dallas-based AriseBank and halt its initial coin offering (“ICO”) for failing to file registration or an exemption from registration with the agency; the thwarted ICO represents the first time the SEC has appointed a third-party custodian to secure a firm’s cryptocurrency holdings, which in this case include bitcoin, litecoin, bitshares, dogecoin and bitUSD.

Facebook Sued for Wrongful Death: The family of a Cleveland man whose murder was posted to Facebook is suing the social media platform for negligence and wrongful death, arguing that Facebook’s information and data-mining tools could have stopped the death by alerting police to a video posted just before the fatal shooting, which showed the killer professing his intent to kill the victim.


TSA’s Facial Recognition Pilot Program: The Transportation Security Administration launched a three-week trial of facial recognition technology at Los Angeles International Airport where at designated gates, scanners capture the name on a passenger’s digital or paper boarding passes, verify the name with boarding pass data and then, if the names match, compare the passenger’s e-passport photo with a real-time image.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

UK Rules Mass Data Collection Act Unlawful: The UK’s Court of Appeal ruled that parts of the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 are unlawful and held that the powers granted in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014—which paved the way for the 2016 Act—did not restrict the accessing of confidential personal phone and web browsing records to serious crime, thereby conflicting with EU law by allowing police to authorize their own access without review by a court or independent administrative body.

Intellectual Property

Wrist Watch: The USPTO granted Amazon a patent for a wristband that tracks warehouse workers’ hand movements and location in real time, thus raising employees’ privacy concerns; the proposed system consists of three parts, including various ultrasonic devices placed around the work area, a module to manage data, and the wristband itself, which features a haptic feedback module that buzzes to notify workers about breaks and help workers find items in the warehouse.

We Shall Overcome Copyright Law: Parties in the copyright dispute about the 1960s protest song “We Shall Overcome” agreed to a settlement putting the civil rights anthem in the public domain; the settlement followed a decision in September by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan stripping copyright protection from the song’s most famous verse ruling that the song’s adaptation from an older work—changing “will” to “shall”—lacked originality.

Robo Cop: Ford developed a patent for a police car that can issue tickets without pulling drivers over by using artificial intelligence to find good hiding spots to catch traffic violators and identifying drivers by scanning license plates, tapping into surveillance cameras and wirelessly accessing government records; the patent application states the vehicle can perform “routine tasks,” such as issuing tickets for failure to stop at a stop sign or communicating with other vehicles on the road, but tasks that cannot be automated will be left to police officers who can be inside the vehicle at all times and reclaim control of the car when necessary.

Free Expression and Censorship

Cuba Internet Task Force: Cuba gave the top American diplomat in Havana a note of protest in response to the Trump administration’s creation of a Cuba Internet Task Force composed of U.S. government and non-governmental representatives; the U.S. State Department said that the task force will promote the “free and unregulated flow of information” by “expanding internet access and independent media,” but the Cuban Foreign Ministry counters that the task force is an attempt to violate its sovereignty and carry out interventionist and illegal actions.

Practice Note

Court Swipes Left: A California appellate court reversed a lower court’s dismissal of an age discrimination lawsuit against Tinder, stating that the company’s variable pricing for Tinder Plus, which charges more for users over 30 years old, is discriminatory because without a strong public policy justification, the pricing makes an “arbitrary, class-based generalization” about older users’ incomes, in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Unfair Competition Law.

On The Lighter Side

A Wealthy Sourpuss: The Grumpy Cat wins a $710,000 payout in a copyright and trademark lawsuit.

Information Law News From CLIP-ings International Correspondents Around the Globe

This academic year, former CLIP-ings Editorial Fellows studying abroad are reporting from time-to-time on current local news and developments in the field of information law!

From Victoria Loeb – Paris, France:

GDPR Guidance: With less than 100 days until mandatory compliance, the European Commission published a guidance to aid all stakeholders to prepare for the GDPR while national data protection authorities, such as the CNIL in France, have been advising organizations, citizens, and businesses on what changes to expect and how to adapt; the Commission’s guidance urges member states to provide financial and human resources to national authorities, announced a Commission website dedicated to compliance guidelines, and designated €3.7 million to help with compliance—€1.7 million to fund data protection authorities and to train data protection professionals, and €2 million to support national efforts in reaching out to businesses.

From Meghna Prasad – Rome, Italy:

Cryptojacking, A New Threat: Hackers targeted YouTube users in Japan, Taiwan, France, Italy, and Spain to mine cryptocurrencies without the users’ knowledge via Google’s Double Click advertising software; although Google confirmed the removal of the compromised ads, the threat of cryptojacking remains a very serious problem.

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

Erin Shahinfar
Subrina Chowdhury
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP