CLIP-ings: March 9, 2018

Internet Governance

Commodify This: The U.S. District Court in Brooklyn held that “virtual currencies can be regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as a commodity,” rejecting a defendant’s argument that he and his cryptocurrency trading advice company are outside the CFTC’s jurisdiction; the Court backed the CFTC’s determination that virtual currencies are commodities because they are “goods exchanged in a market for uniform quality and value,” the currencies fall within the common meaning of the word commodity, and the CFTC has broad discretion to interpret the federal law regulating commodities.

Smart Drones: Google partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense on a program called Project Maven to develop artificial intelligence that analyzes drone footage collected by the military; Google provides its TensorFlow application programming interfaces to help automatically identify objects in unclassified data and flag them for human review, raising ethical concerns about the development and use of machine learning.


FBI Joins Geek Squad: The Electronic Frontier Foundation disclosed documents that show the FBI worked with the Best Buy’s Geek Squad technicians for over a decade to flag child pornography on devices sent in by customers for repairs; the documents reveal that FBI agents visited Best Buy to review images or videos to determine whether they are illegal content, paid the Geek Squad technicians for their assistance, seized the device for additional analysis to be carried out at a local FBI office, and, in some cases, would try to obtain a search warrant to justify the access. 

I Know What You Did After The Movies: MoviePass released a new app update removing its ability to track the location of customers after CEO Mitch Lowe revealed that the app was recording what customers were doing after leaving the movie theater.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Spy vs. Spy: After an entity known as “Shadow Brokers” released stolen information on NSA tools over a year ago, a group of Hungarian security researchers found that the NSA used a software called “Territorial Dispute” to track other nation-state hackers that were inside the same machines as the NSA; the researchers believe the tools were not intended to remove other spies’ malware from the target computer, but to alert NSA agents when they and others were attempting to hack the same system, allowing the NSA to pull back before the other hackers could spot them or steal the NSA hacking tools.  

Intellectual Property

Blackberry Gives Facebook Black Eye: Blackberry filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram apps, alleging that they copied a number of Blackberry Messenger’s security, user interface, and functionality-enhancing features

Trump Tweets About IP Theft: President Trump fired off a series of trade-related tweets aimed at China including one that read, “The U.S. is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft. We cannot allow this to happen as it has for many years!” Observers believe that the tweet hearkens back to an order Trump signed in August authorizing an investigation into China for violation of U.S. intellectual property rights and signals a trade crackdown to come

Free Expression and Censorship

Free Speech for the French Far Right? Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right nationalist party, was charged in a French criminal court with distributing “violent messages that incite terrorism…or seriously harm human dignity” after she tweeted images of ISIS killings in response to a French expert comparing the National Front’s growing popularity to “jihadism.”

Bumble Bans Gun Show:  Following the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, dating app Bumble announced a new policy to remove images of firearms from the profiles of its nearly 30 million users; the policy will also extend to knives, but will exempt users in the military or law enforcement who post pictures of themselves carrying weapons while in uniform.

Practice Note

Uber Trouble: Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Consumer Protection filed a lawsuit against Uber for violating the state’s data breach laws by waiting a year to disclose the 2016 theft of 600,000 Uber drivers’ names and license numbers; the suit claims that Uber violated the Pennsylvania Breach of Personal Information Notification Act, which requires residents to be notified of a data breach within a “reasonable” period of time. 

On The Lighter Side

MoMA meets MoMAR: A collective of eight internet artists calling themselves MoMAR used augmented reality to create a guerilla art gallery in MoMA’s Jackson Pollack room without the museum’s permission.

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:

ePrivacy Reg. Better for U.S. Tech? In an open letter, European media, telecom and internet firms warned that the proposed EU ePrivacy regulations—aimed at regulating businesses providing online communication services, using online tracking technologies, or engaging in electronic direct marketing—will give U.S. tech giants more power over user data and lead European online-based industries to losses; the worry stems from the belief that U.S.-based tech companies will find ways to collect user data, while European firms will incur negative effects from limitations imposed on access to necessary information for user-connection and sector development.

From Meghna Prasad – Rome, Italy:

An Online Exorcise: In Italy, where the Vatican receives approximately 500,000 requests per year for exorcisms, several independent exorcism services are appearing online claiming to help people who are “speaking in unknown languages, discerning distant or hidden things, and displaying a physical strength that is at odds with the possessed person’s age or state of health.”

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