Law and Legal

Bing Covid-19 Tracker

FastCompany: “As the COVID-19 pandemic spins out of control in the United States, you once again need to keep your eye on it. (Exhausting, we know.) Over here at Fast Company, we have used dozens of trackers since February. The reigning favorite (for this reporter, at least) is the COVID-19 Tracker from Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which displays everything you need to know at a glance: country cases (new, active, recovered, fatal), outbreak maps, and for each country, a graph showing daily new cases, plus a half dozen charts that allow quick regional comparisons, and the all-important Curve of Cases Over Time. (The U.S. curve is currently not a curve, but an upward-slanted line, which might as well say we are screwed.)…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Republicans, Democrats Move Even Further Apart in Coronavirus Concerns

“As the number of coronavirus cases surges in many states across the United States, Republicans and Democrats increasingly view the disease in starkly different ways, from the personal health risks arising from the coronavirus outbreak to their comfort in engaging in everyday activities. These differences extend to opinions about whether a new stimulus package will be needed to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Republicans are now much less likely to say an additional stimulus package is necessary than they were in early April, while Democrats continue to overwhelmingly say more economic assistance is needed. A growing share of Republicans believe that the nation has turned a corner in its struggle with the coronavirus. A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (61%) now say that when thinking about the problems facing the country from the coronavirus, “the worst is behind us,” while 38% say the “worst is still to come.” This marks a reversal of opinion since early April, when a majority of Republicans (56%) said the worst was still to come. By contrast, just 23% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say that the worst is behind us when it comes to problems from the coronavirus; more than three times as many Democrats (76%) say the worst is still to come. This is a more modest change from April, when an even larger majority of Democrats (87%) said the worst was still to come…

  • The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 16-22 among 4,708 adults using the Center’s American Trends Panel, finds that a sizable majority (87%) thinks that the actions of ordinary Americans have a great deal or fair amount of impact on how the coronavirus spreads in the U.S…”
Categories: Law and Legal

Demographic report on protests shows how much info our phones give away

Buzzfeed: “On the weekend of May 29, thousands of people marched, sang, grieved, and chanted, demanding an end to police brutality and the defunding of police departments in the aftermath of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. They marched en masse in cities like Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, empowered by their number and the assumed anonymity of the crowd. And they did so completely unaware that a tech company was using location data harvested from their cellphones to predict their race, age, and gender and where they lived. Just over two weeks later, that company, Mobilewalla, released a report titled “George Floyd Protester Demographics: Insights Across 4 Major US Cities.” In 60 pie charts, the document details what percentage of protesters the company believes were male or female, young adult (18–34); middle-aged 35º54, or older (55+); and “African-American,” “Caucasian/Others,” “Hispanic,” or “Asian-American.” “African American males made up the majority of protesters in the four observed cities vs. females,” Mobilewalla claimed. “Men vs. women in Atlanta (61% vs. 39%), in Los Angeles (65% vs. 35%), in Minneapolis (54% vs. 46%) and in New York (59% vs. 41%).” The company analyzed data from 16,902 devices at protests — including exactly 8,152 devices in New York, 4,527 in Los Angeles, 2,357 in Minneapolis, and 1,866 in Atlanta. Sen. Elizabeth Warren told BuzzFeed News that Mobilewalla’s report was alarming, and an example of the consequences of the lack of regulation on data brokers in the US…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New research explores how conservative media misinformation may have intensified the severity of the pandemic

Washington Post – “…The three studies paint a picture of a media ecosystem that entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking steps to protect themselves and others.. There are many reasons our response to the pandemic tied to more than 120,000 U.S. deaths has faltered, experts say, including the lack of a cohesive federal policy, missteps on testing and tracing, and a national culture emphasizing individualism. In recent weeks, three studies have focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others…

Categories: Law and Legal

Federal Workforce: Key Considerations for Agencies Returning Employees to Workplaces during Pandemics

Federal Workforce: Key Considerations for Agencies Returning Employees to Workplaces during Pandemics. GAO-20-650T: Published: Jun 25, 2020. Publicly Released: June 25, 2020.  “We testified about key practices for agencies to consider as their workers re-enter the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic or telework for sustained periods during this and other emergencies. These include:

  • Communicating continuously with employees and considering local conditions when making workforce re-entry decisions
  • Ensuring sufficient hygiene supplies like hand sanitizer are available and implementing social distancing strategies (like reconfiguring the workplace and using telework when possible)
  • Assessing if technology and its support and security adequately sustain the increased use of telework, especially during peak periods..”
Categories: Law and Legal

Trafficking in Persons Report 2020

U.S. Department of State – Trafficking in Persons Report 2020, June 2020: “For 20 years, the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) has demonstrated the United States’ conviction that human trafficking is a global threat necessitating a global response. Traffickers are denying nearly 25 million people their fundamental right to freedom, forcing them to live enslaved and toil for their exploiter’s profit. This report arms governments with the data they need to increase the prosecution of traffickers, provide victim-centered and trauma-informed protection for victims of trafficking, and prevent this crime altogether…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Knowledge Mismanagement – How the Virus Won

The New York Times – article and infographics – “Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control…How the First Outbreaks Spread – Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home. But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Large Case Examination Selection Method Consistently Results in High No-Change Rates

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) – The Large Case Examination Selection Method Consistently Results in High No-Change Rates June 22, 2020. Reference Number: 2020-30-031: “The IRS compiles Tax Gap data to periodically update appraisals of the nature and extent of tax payment noncompliance for use in formulating tax administration strategies. The IRS estimates the average annual gross Tax Gap for Tax Years 2011 through 2013 to be $411 billion. The largest component, $352 billion, is attributable to under reporting of taxes. Large corporation (assets of $10 million or more) tax noncompliance contributes an estimated $26 billion to the average annual under reporting Tax Gap….Of the 10,755 returns, 7,831 returns (73 percent) were systemically selected, i.e., were selected as the primary tax return to be examined. The overall no-change rate for these returns was about 55 percent (4,327 of the 7,831), and the no-change rate was generally high across all activity codes for businesses with assets of $10 million or more (ranging from 44 percent to 61 percent)…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Why companies like Porsche and Nestle are turning to worker-owned talent site Braintrust for new hires

Fortune: “There’s a new player in the world of freelance marketplaces. It’s called Braintrust and, like incumbents TaskRabbit and Upwork, it provides a website to connect contract workers and firms looking to hire them. But Braintrust stands out for a number of reasons—including its high profile clients. Since launching in 2018, the San Francisco startup has attracted blue chip companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Porsche and Nestle to its platform, as well as the space agency NASA. Until now, Braintrust has chosen to operate in what Silicon Valley types call “stealth mode,” relying on word-of-mouth and eschewing media publicity…”

Categories: Law and Legal

As COVID-19 Emerged in U.S. Facebook Posts About It Appeared in a Wide Range of Public Pages, Groups

“About three-quarters (74%) of public posts about COVID-19 linked to news organizations, while just 1% linked to health and science sites. The COVID-19 outbreak has driven record traffic to news sites as most Americans have sought out information about the virus and its implications for society. Many have turned to social media to follow the developments – and even before the outbreak, about half of all U.S. adults said they get news from Facebook. But where on Facebook are people finding discussions of COVID-19, what sources are users linking to, and how much are people engaging with what they find? A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that in the early days of the outbreak in the United States, coronavirus-related posts that shared links to sources of information appeared in a wide variety of public Facebook spaces (defined in this report as public pages and groups) – mainly spaces where users were already discussing other topics. For instance, about a quarter (24%) of the public spaces studied that mentioned the virus in March 2020 were personal interest and lifestyle spaces, while another one-in-five (19%) were entertainment or sports. The remainder ranged from spaces typically focused on government and politics to religion, business and humor, reflecting the outbreak’s impact in many different contexts…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Coronavirus Tests the Limits of America’s Public Libraries

BloombergCityLab: “In April, a Johns Hopkins University report for governors on reopening drew such fierce backlash from librarians that the authors eventually revised their guidance. The report had initially deemed libraries a low-risk environment, meaning contact with other people is brief, “fairly distant” and with a few people. But “the study tainted the view of people at the state level,” said Callan Bignoli, the director of the library at Olin College of Engineering, in Needham, Massachusetts. “They’re thinking libraries are quiet and chill, with airy reading rooms where people just grab books off the shelves and don’t interact with each other. That is absolutely not the case.” The amended guidance noted that libraries could be medium to high risk when they function as “community centers.” Public libraries are, in fact, one of the last free spaces in the U.S. where vulnerable populations can seek out unemployment assistance, internet and computer access, and daytime shelter from the streets; for some, they’re also de facto child-care centers.  “Libraries aren’t in the business of books — they’re in the business of communities,” said Curtis Rogers at the Urban Libraries Council. That means workers in major public systems can interact with hundreds of patrons daily in an enclosed space, where people share everything from books to furniture and computers to printing machines. Now, as states begin to reopen, libraries are figuring out how to safely serve their communities again, amid the threat of an ongoing pandemic in which person-to-person transmission is riskiest in indoor spaces where people linger for a long time. Some smaller libraries have started allowing the public back inside their buildings in a limited capacity, which worries Bignoli. She has been an outspoken advocate for the rights and safety of library workers, and helped start a nationwide petition calling for governments and employers to allow workers to make demands for protection…”

Categories: Law and Legal

A lawsuit is threatening the Internet Archive but it’s not as dire as you may have heard

Vox: “The Internet Archive (also known as IA or Archive.org), home to the giant vault of internet and public domain history known as the Wayback Machine, is currently facing a crisis — one largely defined by misinformation. A group of publishing companies filed a scathing copyright lawsuit earlier this month over the IA’s controversial attempt to open an “Emergency Library” during the coronavirus pandemic. Ever since, confusion about the scope of the lawsuit and its potential impact on the IA as a whole has stoked fears of a crackdown on the IA’s many projects, including its gargantuan archive of the historical internet. But much of that fear seems to be exaggerated. And while the lawsuit is a big deal for advocates of an open internet, it’s probably not the existential threat to the IA that you may have heard it is…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Initial COVID-19 infection rate may be 80 times greater than originally reported

Penn State News – UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – “Many epidemiologists believe that the initial COVID-19 infection rate was undercounted due to testing issues, asymptomatic and alternatively symptomatic individuals, and a failure to identify early cases. Now, a new study from Penn State estimates that the number of early COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may have been more than 80 times greater and doubled nearly twice as fast as originally believed. In a paper published today (June 22) in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers estimated the detection rate of symptomatic COVID-19 cases using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza-like illnesses (ILI) surveillance data over a three week period in March 2020. “We analyzed each state’s ILI cases to estimate the number that could not be attributed to influenza and were in excess of seasonal baseline levels,” said Justin Silverman, assistant professor in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology and Department of Medicine. “When you subtract these out, you’re left with what we’re calling excess ILI – cases that can’t be explained by either influenza or the typical seasonal variation of respiratory pathogens.”… [[h/t Pete Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

Get A Comfortable Chair: Permanent Work From Home Is Coming

NPR – “Indefinite. Or even permanent. These are words companies are using about their employees working from home. It’s three months into a huge, unplanned social experiment that suddenly transported the white-collar workplace from cubicles and offices to kitchens and spare bedrooms. And many employers now say the benefits of remote work outweigh the drawbacks. Tech companies Twitter and Facebook captured headlines with announcements about permanent work from home. But the news from a 94-year-old company based in the heartland — Columbus, Ohio — may have been even more significant. Nationwide Insurance is shutting five regional offices since remote work has gone off so smoothly during the pandemic. And thousands of employees will permanently ditch their commutes for home offices…One potential change: Demand for commercial real estate falls due to the growth of remote work and the realities of a painful economic downturn. For example, 90% of the 60,000 employees at investment bank Morgan Stanley have been working remotely during the pandemic. Lesson learned, according to Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman…”

Categories: Law and Legal

What comes after Zoom?

Benedict Evans: “We had video calls in science fiction, and we had video conferencing in the 1990s, just as the web was taking off, as a very expensive and impractical tool for big companies. It was proposed as a use case for 3G, which didn’t happen at all, and with the growth of consumer broadband we got all sorts of tools that could do it, but it never really became a mass-market consumer behaviour. Now, suddenly, we’re all locked down, and we’re all on video calls all the time, doing team stand-ups, play dates and family birthday parties, and suddenly Zoom is a big deal. At some point many of those meetings will turn back into coffees, we hope, but video will remain. Will it still be Zoom, though? As a breakthrough product, I think it’s useful to compare Zoom with two previous products – Dropbox and Skype.  Part of the founding legend of Dropbox is that Drew Houston told people what he wanted to do, and everyone said ‘there are hundreds of these already’ and he replied ‘yes, but which one do you use?’ That’s what Zoom did – video calls are nothing new, but Zoom solved a lot of the small pieces of friction that made it fiddly to get into a call…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Indiana Supreme Court – It’s unconstitutional for cops to force phone unlocking

ars technica: “Indiana’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Fifth Amendment allows a woman accused of stalking to refuse to unlock her iPhone. The court held that the Fifth Amendment’s rule against self-incrimination protected Katelin Seo from giving the police access to potentially incriminating data on her phone. The courts are divided on how to apply the Fifth Amendment in this kind of case. Earlier this year, a Philadelphia man was released from jail after four years of being held in contempt in connection with a child-pornography case. A federal appeals court rejected his argument that the Fifth Amendment gave him the right to refuse to unlock hard drives found in his possession. A Vermont federal court reached the same conclusion in 2009—as did a Colorado federal court in 2012, a Virginia state court in 2014, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2014. But other courts in Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania have reached the opposite conclusion, holding that forcing people to provide computer or smartphone passwords would violate the Fifth Amendment. Lower courts are divided about this issue because the relevant Supreme Court precedents all predate the smartphone era. To understand the two competing theories, it’s helpful to analogize the situation to a pre-digital technology…”

Categories: Law and Legal

What U.S. States Require Masks In Public?

Masks4All: “There aren’t any resources on the internet that display which U.S. States have mandatory mask laws and because masks are one of the most effective ways to stop COVID-19 spread, we decided to build this! Mandatory mask laws can mean many different things, sometimes it’s only on public transport, sometimes only in essential businesses, and sometimes everywhere in public. You can filter, sort, search, and download the data below. There are also sources linked for every piece of data. Also, here is another helpful list: Countries with mandatory mask laws…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm

ars technica: “Civil rights activists have filed an official complaint against the Detroit police, alleging the department arrested the wrong man based on a faulty and incorrect match provided by facial recognition software—the first known complaint of this kind. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the complaint (PDF) Wednesday on behalf of Robert Williams, a Michigan man who was arrested in January based on a false positive generated by facial recognition software. “At every step, DPD’s conduct has been improper,” the complaint alleges. “It unthinkingly relied on flawed and racist facial recognition technology without taking reasonable measures to verify the information being provided” as part of a “shoddy and incomplete investigation.”…

The New York Times – “In what may be the first known case of its kind, a faulty facial recognition match led to a Michigan man’s arrest for a crime he did not commit…A nationwide debate is raging about racism in law enforcement. Across the country, millions are protesting not just the actions of individual officers, but bias in the systems used to surveil communities and identify people for prosecution. Facial recognition systems have been used by police forces for more than two decades. Recent studies by M.I.T. and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, have found that while the technology works relatively well on white men, the results are less accurate for other demographics, in part because of a lack of diversity in the images used to develop the underlying databases. Last year, during a public hearing about the use of facial recognition in Detroit, an assistant police chief was among those who raised concerns. “On the question of false positives — that is absolutely factual, and it’s well-documented,” James White said. “So that concerns me as an African-American male.” This month, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM announced they would stop or pause their facial recognition offerings for law enforcement. The gestures were largely symbolic, given that the companies are not big players in the industry. The technology police departments use is supplied by companies that aren’t household names, such as Vigilant Solutions, Cognitec, NEC, Rank One Computing and Clearview AI. Clare Garvie, a lawyer at Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology, has written about problems with the government’s use of facial recognition. She argues that low-quality search images — such as a still image from a grainy surveillance video — should be banned, and that the systems currently in use should be tested rigorously for accuracy and bias. “There are mediocre algorithms and there are good ones, and law enforcement should only buy the good ones,” Ms. Garvie said. About Mr. Williams’s experience in Michigan, she added: “I strongly suspect this is not the first case to misidentify someone to arrest them for a crime they didn’t commit. This is just the first time we know about it.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

How to make sure Google automatically deletes your data on a regular basis

Vox: “…The company announced on Wednesday that auto-delete will be the default setting for user account activity settings. That said, this “default” setting only applies to new accounts or existing accounts that now turn on data retention after having it disabled. And the default auto-delete time still gives Google as much as three years of your data, as opposed to manual auto-delete settings that keep as little as three months’ worth. Google also announced that its account privacy and security settings will soon be accessible through its search page. You’ll also be able to switch over to Chrome’s Incognito mode in its apps more easily — simply press down on your profile photo for a second or two. Incognito mode lets you browse the internet “privately,” which means Google Chrome won’t save your history or cookies on your computer. It does not, however, mean that the websites you visit or the server you use can’t see what you’re doing. The Google announcement comes just a couple days after rival Apple announced some new privacy features for its software. More on that in a second. If you have a Google account and use Google products like Gmail, YouTube, or Chrome, you’re probably logged in all the time. In this case, your activity while using those apps and services can be tracked by Google, which will then use that data to target ads to you, among other things. Over the years, Google has introduced privacy controls over the data you send the company and has made efforts to make those features more obvious to users. You can find most of these privacy controls in your account settings by clicking on “Manage your data & personalization.” From there, you can click on “Manage your activity controls.” This is the section where you can save your web and app activity, location history, and YouTube history if you want Google to use that data to give you what it calls a “more personalized experience.” Or you can just ask Google not to save anything and have an impersonal, but more private, experience…”

Categories: Law and Legal

‘Subpar in Every Aspect’: Harvard Law Student Sues Over Online Classes

Law.com – “A Harvard Law student has filed a class action against the university, arguing that students should be charged a lower tuition for online classes on the grounds that they are inferior to in-person instruction. Harvard is the latest target in a wave of litigation focused on college and university tuition reimbursements amid the COVID-19 pandemic—at least 100 campuses have been sued thus far. Plaintiffs firms Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, which is representing incoming second-year law student Abraham Barkhordar, has also filed suit against 13 other universities. Barkhordar’s complaint, which seeks to represent all Harvard students and not just those who attend the law school, takes issue not only with the fact that students were not issued tuition refunds last spring when classes shifted online, but also that the law school plans to keep tuition at the same level of $65,875 even though the fall semester will be entirely remote. “While Plaintiff’s coursework requires group projects and collaboration, such teamwork is now significantly harder to orchestrate,” reads the complaint, filed June 22 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. “Plaintiff has also been unable to connect with professors and classmates on the same level online as he had in-person and is similarly lacking the intellectual stimulation of the in-person learning environment.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

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