CLIP-ings: June 8, 2018

Internet Governance

SEC Appoints First-Ever Digital Currency Specialist: Monday saw SEC veteran Valerie A. Szczepanik named the commission’s first Senior Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation; in her new role, Szczepanik will be responsible for coordinating all SEC efforts regarding the application of US securities laws to digital asset technologies as well as classifying and understanding technologies which don’t always fit into traditional frameworks.

Putting Theory into Practice: Following humanitarian concerns regarding the possible application of security technologies displayed last month at China International Big Data Expo, comes a study by the Economist shedding light on how China uses such tools to suppress dissent in its Xinjiang Province; featured prominently is the government’s Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), which uses machine-learning, cameras, smartphones, financial records, and electricity bills to generate lists of subjects for detention.

Working Remotely? Come to Vermont: The Green Mountain State continues to lead State-driven initiatives to promote population connectivity and boost its tax revenue; with a small and rapidly aging population, Vermont has signed into law $10,000  grants to cover relocation expenses, including work space, computer, and internet access, for the first 100 out-of-state employees to become full-time residents on or after January 1, 2019.


Another Strike for Facebook: Facebook said it has been sharing user data with four Chinese device makers, including Huawei, a company that US intelligence agencies have described as a security threat, fueling further concern about Facebook’s privacy and information security policies; Facebook defended itself by saying that the partnerships were forged several years ago “when mobile phones were less powerful and app stores did not yet exist,” and stated that the partnership with Huawei will shut down this week.

Smile! You’re on Camera: DHS is launching a test of a facial recognition system that scans people entering and leaving the country through the US/Mexico border by capturing an image of the people inside the car; this test is part of a larger biometric data project currently going through a pilot program at eight U.S. airports and raised concerns in ACLU lawyers about the rise in the sophistication of surveillance technology used by the federal government.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

#ThatHappened: Gizmodo reported that new FCC emails obtained by advocacy group American Oversight casts further suspicion on the FCC’s claim that the outage of a comment system regarding net neutrality rules in 2017 was caused by a DDoS attack rather than heavy traffic generated by citizens attempting to comment; Separately, the New York State Attorney General’s Office is currently investigating fraud in the net neutrality comments process and has accused FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of withholding necessary information.

Credit card security, “priceless”: Last Friday witnessed an unprecedented hardware failure in Visa’s payment system across Europe, preventing many of today’s plastic-dependent consumers from purchasing goods and services; the company has since dispelled any hacking or data breach concerns and stated that its payment system is now operating at full capacity.

Intellectual Property

He Said What? Researchers at Stanford and other renowned technology institutes have submitted a paper to SIGGRAPH titled “Deep Video Portraits” that describes a refined method of generating highly convincing videos that reproduce the facial expressions and motions of a person by using the face of another; “Deepfakes,” videos that insert faces of celebrities into pornography and other videos have already been a topic of controversy this year–Jordan Peele raised awareness about this technology with a viral video in April.

Public’s Right of Access to Patent Briefs: This week, Electronic Frontier Foundation sent a letter to the Federal Circuit asking the court to allow public access to patent briefs pending review by the Clerk’s Office; the current practice of disabling public access until the briefs are accepted sometimes burdens those who submit amicus briefs because they are unable to read the brief and so prevent duplicating arguments.

Free Expression and Censorship

To Filter or To Not Filter: Youtube is being accused of discrimination because its automated filtering algorithm has been found to demonetize or remove videos with LGBT content in addition to failing to prevent anti-LGBT advertisements appearing before such videos; having recently faced similar criticisms about discrimination and abuse of discretion, Spotify and Valve officially announced this week that they are rolling back their policy of blocking undesirable content.

When Saying Less is More: In the signal-driven world which drives capital markets, a single Tweet may have grave consequences; whereas disagreement exists over the impact of President Trump’s preemptive post “Looking forward to seeing the unemployment numbers at 8:30 this morning,” multiple economists assert that the act violates custom and, perhaps, federal regulation – the reality is that many trading firms already track social media traffic in the hope of anticipating events.

Practice Note

Back to Contracts 101: Dismissal of TWiT LLC’s trademark lawsuit against Twitter Inc in the Northern District of California, alleging that the latter violated a “coexistence” agreement, serves as a sobering reminder that, where required elements of a contract are absent, there is no contract.

On The Lighter Side

Alternative Diplomacy: As the likelihood of a Trump-Kim summit in Singapore becomes an ever-greater reality, let us not forget the original North Korean relations trailblazer – Dennis Rodman; the retired basketball star, who has actively promoted digital currency PotCoin in the past, is reportedly seeking funding from the startup for his new peace mission.

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

Mindy Nam
William Ioas
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP