CLIP-ings: November 30, 2018

Internet Governance

DOJ Dismantles Digital Ad Scams: With the help of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and private companies, the Department of Justice indicted eight individuals who are alleged to have created fake internet advertising companies to scam legitimate companies out of a collective $36 million; while three defendants were arrested, five remain at large.

FTC Discusses Holding Tech Companies Accountable: Sitting before the Senate Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee, FTC Commissioners would not comment on the agency’s investigation into whether Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal showed that the social network violated a 2011 consent decree; the FTC did state that it lacks sufficient resources to combat data abuse, and as a result often opts for settlement over costly trial.

Ohio Will Accept Bitcoin For Taxes: Despite regulatory concerns around cryptocurrency, Ohio became the first state to accept bitcoin for paying business taxes; the State wants to compete for new businesses and establish itself as the “national and international leader in blockchain technology.”

Privacy

Six Flags Lawsuit Tests Biometric Privacy Law: Illinois’ highest court will determine whether a “person aggrieved” under the State’s Biometric Information Privacy Act must suffer actual harm from the collection of biometric information in violation of the statute, or whether a technical violation alone confers standing to sue.

UK Police Use AI To Predict Crime: A law enforcement software known as the National Data Analytics Solution leverages 1,400 indicators from pooled police data sets across the U.K. and uses machine learning to identify individuals who are on a trajectory toward committing serious violent crimes so they can be offered assistance such as counselling; privacy critics raise concerns about bias reinforcement and the intrusiveness of pre-emptive intervention.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

U.S. Indicts Hackers Behind Nationwide Extortion: The U.S. Treasury Department for the first time added two cryptocurrency wallets to its sanctions list after indicting two Iranian hackers for extorting $6 million from more than 200 victims — including 43 U.S. states — through ransomware software that ordered victims to send money to the bitcoin accounts; one high-profile incident involved an attack on Atlanta that affected major basic municipal functions.

Facebook Faces Vitriol From International Community: At a rare joint hearing with policymakers from nine countries, Facebook was harshly criticized for its inability to stop the spread of fake news; U.K. House of Commons member Damian Collins pointed to documents that allegedly show Facebook was aware of Russia’s malicious involvement with the platform as early as 2014, and suggested that the recently obtained documents will be published “within a week.”

Intellectual Property

Australia Tightens Online Piracy Laws: The Australian parliament passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018, which, among other things, entitles copyright owners to apply for injunctions that force ISPs to prevent customers from accessing pirate sites and allows ISPs to block mirror and proxy sites without returning to court; the Australian Digital Alliance and other organizations warn that the legislation “removes public interest protections and puts legitimate sites and activities of the public at risk.”

Free Expression and Censorship

Gmail Avoids Gender-Based Pronouns: Gmail stopped its “Smart Compose” text prediction feature, which autosuggests text for Gmail users composing emails, from suggesting gender-based pronouns due to concerns that the technology might perpetuate real-world gender bias.

Practice Note

Ethical Rules Regarding Crowdfunding: The District of Columbia Bar’s Legal Ethics Committee issued an opinion analyzing lawyers’ ethical obligations when clients use crowdfunding to pay for representation, which the opinion concludes vary according to the extent of a lawyer’s involvement in fundraising efforts.

On The Lighter Side

How The Senate Stopped Grinch Bots From Stealing Christmas: Just before the holiday season, Congress members proposed the “Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018” to outlaw the use of online shopping bots and the resale of items they purchase.


Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law
Founding Academic Director, Fordham CLIP

Tom Norton 
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Tommine McCarthy 
Subrina Chowdhury 
Editorial Fellows, Fordham CLIP