CLIP-ings: December 7, 2018

Internet Governance

Australia’s New Anti-Encryption Law: Australia passed a bill that will require technology companies to provide law enforcement and security agencies with access to encrypted data, despite criticism that doing so could undermine national security and privacy; Australia is the first nation in the Five Eyes intelligence network—which is comprised of the United States, Canada, Britain, and New Zealand—to force broad access requirements, with fines of up to A$10 million ($7.3 million) for institutions and prison terms for individuals who fail to provide data on suspected illegal activities.

Facebook Cherry-Picked Special Access To Data: Facebook gave favored partners such as Netflix and Airbnb special access to user data, while restricting competitors’ access to its platform, according to internal Facebook documents released by a British parliamentary committee investigating online disinformation; the documents also reveal how Facebook considered restricting app developers’ access to user data unless those developers bought advertising—a policy the company now claims it never enacted.


NYPD Unveils New Drone System: The New York Police Department unveiled plans to deploy 14 drones and train 29 officers to operate them, raising concerns about the department’s possible misuse of the devices and growing surveillance capacity; according to police officials, while the drones will be used to monitor large crowds, investigate hazardous waste spills, handle hostage situations, and reach remote areas in crime scenes, they will not be used for routine police patrols or traffic enforcement, will not be weaponized, and will not conduct warrantless surveillance.

Secret Service Tests Facial Recognition At White House: The Secret Service is testing a pilot facial recognition system that matches images of individuals outside the White House with “subjects of interest,” according to a Department of Homeland Security report revealed by the American Civil Liberties Union; while the program is currently limited to trying to match the faces of volunteer staff members, the report acknowledges a privacy risk for members of the public who are inadvertently recorded.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

500 Million Affected In Marriott Data Breach: Hackers breached Marriott’s Starwood hotels reservation system and stole the personal data of up to 500 million guests in an attack that began four years ago; the attack has prompted Senators to call for stronger data security laws and data breach penalties, and Marriott plans to provide customers with free identity theft monitoring and reimburse hack victims for new passports.

NRCC Emails Hacked In 2018 Midterms: The National Republican Congressional Committee (“NRCC”) was hacked during the 2018 midterm election campaigns, exposing thousands of emails from four senior NRCC aides to an unknown entity; neither Senior House Republicans nor rank-and-file members were told of the breach until this week, as the committee opted to withhold information to shield an investigation of the hack and not tip off the culprit.

Intellectual Property

Google Seeks Review Of Spreadsheet Patent Decision: Google petitioned the Federal Circuit for en banc review of an October panel decision finding that an invention for navigating through complex electronic spreadsheets is a patent-eligible improvement; in its petition, Google argued that the technology, which enables electronic tabbing akin to paper tabbing, is directed to an abstract idea and is therefore un-patentable under Alice.

Free Expression and Censorship

Tumblr Bans Porn: Just weeks after it was removed from the iOS App Store over an incident involving child pornography, Tumblr announced that it will permanently ban adult content on its platform starting December 17, 2018; the machine learning technology Tumblr will use to filter prohibited images has been the target of skepticism due to, among other things, its inaccuracy and inability to contextualize images.

On The Lighter Side

New Home of the Whopper? Burger King’s new app uses geofencing technology to offer customers a Whopper for a penny if they order on the app within 600 feet of a McDonald’s.

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