Law and Legal
ZDNet – “Microsoft is rolling out its AI-powered live transcription service in Microsoft Teams, answering Zoom’s recent expansion of its own live transcription feature. Competition remains fierce in the video-meeting market for live transcription functionality. In December, Cisco announced its closed captioning service for Webex; Zoom last month brought live transcription to free accounts, albeit in a limited manner; Google just brought live captions to Chrome, and now Microsoft is offering its own take on live transcriptions in Teams. Microsoft Teams live transcription can identify each speaker, and captures audio in “near real time” to provide a record of what’s said during and after the meeting…”
TechDirt: “Location data is the new growth market. Data harvested from apps is sold to data brokers who, in turn, sell this to whoever’s buying. Lately, the buyers have been a number of government agencies, including the CBP, ICE, DEA, Secret Service, IRS, and — a bit more worryingly — the Defense Department. The mileage varies for purchasers. The location data generally isn’t as accurate as that obtained directly from service providers. On the other hand, putting a couple of middle men between the app data and the purchase of data helps agencies steer clear of Constitutional issues related to the Supreme Court’s Carpenter decision, which introduced a warrant mandate for engaging in proxy tracking of people via cell service providers…”
WSJ (paywall): “Goodnight Ninja? Knuffle Blobfish? Epic, a digital reading platform, tracks what kids are searching for on its site and uses that data to create new books; ‘Bug is higher on the list than crocodile’…The digital comic book passed one million reads in its first five days last week. Epic predicted as much. It engineered the book to become a hit with kids ages 6 to 10 by basing its new owl heroine partly on children’s preferences and reading habits on the site. When a kid’s sticky fingers search for something to read, Epic captures that activity and feeds the information into its book recommendation engine—a tool that also informs the creation of new titles in-house. Epic’s team knows that children prefer owls to chickens and chickens to hedgehogs. Kids hunt for unicorns almost twice as often as they look for mermaids. Volcanoes are more popular than tsunamis, which are more popular than earthquakes. The Titanic is bigger than cowboys, pizza is bigger than cake, science is bigger than art and “poop” is bigger than all of them. During the pandemic, Epic has more than doubled its reach to 50 million children globally, most of them in the U.S. The online subscription children’s book service, founded in 2013 and based in Redwood City, Calif., is free to schools and has become a fixture of remote classrooms across the country by offering an easily accessible library of books and educational videos. Epic now possesses a trove of data on children, a group famously difficult to track…”
Trust for the National Mall – “Washington D.C.’s cherry blossoms signal the arrival of spring and symbolize hope, renewal, and friendship. With fewer visitors expected to see the blooming cherry trees in person this year, the Trust for the National Mall along with its partners, the National Park Service, The National Cherry Blossom Festival, and EarthCam, are bringing the beloved and blooming Cherry Trees to YOU during their peak bloom! Enjoy them this season from the comfort of your home or wherever you are around the world!..”
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC – “Scammers are using a new trick to steal your money and personal information: a bogus COVID vaccine survey. People across the country are reporting getting emails and texts out of the blue, asking them to complete a limited-time survey about the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine. (And no doubt, there may be one for Johnson & Johnson, too.) In exchange, people are offered a free reward, but asked to pay shipping fees. If you get an email or text like this, STOP. It’s a scam. No legitimate surveys ask for your credit card or bank account number to pay for a “free” reward. If you get an email or text you’re not sure about: Don’t click on any links or open attachments. Doing so could install harmful malware that steals your personal information without you realizing it. Don’t call or use the number in the email or text. If you want to call the company that supposedly sent the message, look up its phone number online. To learn more about COVID-related frauds and scams, visit ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams.”
- Don’t give your bank account, credit card, or personal information to someone who contacts you out of the blue.
- You can filter unwanted text messages on your phone, through your wireless provider, or with a call-blocking app.
- If you get an email or text that asks for your personal information and you think it could be a scam, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
Ritter, Jeffrey, Digital Justice in 2058: Trusting Our Survival to AI, Quantum and the Rule of Law (December 22, 2020). 8 J. INT’L & COMPARATIVE LAW __ (2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3778678 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3778678“As legal scholarship on the interactions among artificial intelligence (AI) and the rule of law advances, quantum computing is rapidly moving from scientific theory into reality, offering unprecedented potential for what AI will accomplish. To anticipate what the rule of law will offer when quantum becomes real, Part I introduces a future reality in which a new machine-based legal system, quantum law, governs humankind. Time travelling forward to 2058, the centennial birthday of the Internet, Part II surveys the condition of the world, in which the rule of law serves an essential purpose—to extend the survival of humankind. Part III offers the text of an imagined keynote address in that year, describing the foundations on which justice has evolved and quantum law is administered. Part IV concludes by challenging custodians of the law to think differently about how to fit law and technology together, while still preserving and advancing the humane values cherished as principles of the rule of law today—compassion, forgiveness, redemption, equality and fairness.”
Washington Post – “We aren’t ready for what happens next. Realistic videos of people doing things that never really happened have become shockingly easy to create. Now is the time to put in some guardrails. The past few months have brought advances in this controversial technology that I knew were coming, but am still shocked to see. A few years ago, deepfake videos — named after the “deep learning” artificial intelligence used to generate faces — required a Hollywood studio or at least a crazy powerful computer. Then around 2020 came apps, like one called Reface, that let you map your own face onto a clip of a celebrity. Now with a single source photo and zero technical expertise, an iPhone app called Avatarify lets you actually control the face of another person like a puppet. Using your phone’s selfie camera, whatever you do with your own face happens on theirs. Avatarify doesn’t make videos as sophisticated as pro fakes of Tom Cruise that have been flying on social network TikTok — but it has been downloaded more than 6 million times since February alone. (See for yourself in the video I made on my phone to accompany this column.) Another app for iPhone and Android devices called Wombo turns a straight-on photo into a funny lip-sync music video. It generated 100 million clips just in its first two weeks…”
CRS – Proposals to Modify Supreme Court Justices’ Tenure: Legal Considerations, March 24, 2021: “To insulate the federal judiciary from political influence, the Constitution specifies that Supreme Court Justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” While the Constitution does not define “good Behaviour,” the prevailing interpretation is that Congress cannot remove Supreme Court Justices from office except via impeachment. Thus, under existing law and longstanding historical practice, Supreme Court Justices generally enjoy life tenure. Some maintain that life tenure for Supreme Court Justices promotes important values, including judicial independence and expertise. Others support establishing age or term limits for Supreme Court Justices for various reasons, including regularizing judicial appointments and reducing the risk that failing health will negatively affect a Justice’s work. While many proposals to modify Supreme Court Justices’ tenure involve amending the Constitution, some maintain that Congress could impose term or age limits legislatively. While no court has yet considered that question directly, a court might conclude that the Constitution’s text, structure, and history prohibits legislative adjustments to judicial tenure. If Congress chose to amend the Constitution to alter the Justices’ tenure, it would have to decide how to structure that amendment. For instance, Congress could consider whether to impose an age or a term limit, as well as how long the Justices’ tenure will last. These options pose various legal issues that Congress may explore. Besides modifying judicial tenure, Congress could also consider other ways to influence the Court’s composition and operations, such as changing the Court’s size…”
MakeUseOf – “The threat landscape has significantly expanded with the proliferation of the internet and digital connectivity. As of March 2020, there were more than 677 million new malware detections. This figure by Statista indicates a growing threat of cyberattacks against individuals and businesses. Cybercriminals take advantage of cyberattack vectors to bypass your basic security defenses. These vectors fall into several categories, each of which uses a different approach to compromise your system’s security. In this post, we’ll take you through some of the most common vectors of attacks and the countermeasures you can take to effectively combat these threats…”
- 117th Congress
- Communications and Technology (117th Congress)
- Consumer Protection and Commerce (117th Congress)
The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a joint hearing on Thursday, March 25, at 12 p.m, via Cisco Webex. The hearing is entitled, “Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation.”
Key Documents Memorandum from Chairman Pallone to the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce
USA Today – “Despite potentially longer hours, most Americans enjoy working remotely and want the option to keep doing so post-pandemic, according to a new Harvard Business School Online survey. As COVID-19 forced countless companies to let employees work remotely and presented new challenges such as readjusting their home life and fighting Zoom fatigue from numerous virtual meetings, most of the 1,500 people surveyed say they excelled and even grew in their professions. “I think it’s a combination of factors, like a Jekyll and Hyde, so to speak,” said Patrick Mullane, the school’s executive director. “We love working remotely in some ways; it gives us more time to focus, spend time with our families, and no long commutes back and forth to work. “We found out that we can do a lot without having to be face-to-face as COVID really forced that issue,” Mullane said…”
pocketnow – “Microsoft has announced a new feature that uses AI to turn Word files into a PowerPoint presentation. Called Export to PowerPoint presentation, the feature has started to roll out for Word and PowerPoint on the web, and users with an Office 365 subscription can now access it. All you have to do is open a Word file on the web, hit the Export button on the left sidebar, then tap on the Export to PowerPoint presentation, and you’re good to go…”
USDA – “Partnerships are integral to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’ mission. NIFA is the federal partner in a vast network of scientists, educators, and extension staff that address critical issues about agriculture, food, the environment, and communities. NIFA’s key partner is the nation’s Land-Grant University (LGU) System, which includes the 1862 public universities; the 1890 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and Tuskegee University; and, the 1994 tribal colleges and universities. Find out who the NIFA land-grant partners are, and how to reach them with this Land-Grant University Partner Map. The tool allows you to discover the specific colleges and universities that make up this system and provides links to the institution’s websites.
Fast Company – “This week, the United States Postmaster General released a dramatic 10-year plan for the Postal Service, which will see the agency make its largest cuts to consumer service in recent history. The plan comes amid difficult times for the Postal Service, which was dealt multiple whammies by the coronavirus pandemic as it tried to balance crippled staff numbers with overwhelming package volumes. It also became embattled in politics during the 2020 presidential election, scuffling with Trump officials over leadership and funding issues as the pandemic exacerbated the agency’s declining financial health. In May, major Republican and Trump donor Louis DeJoy was appointed the new Postmaster General in a move that left Democratic lawmakers feeling skeptical. You might have noticed that the mail has slowed since then. During last year’s holiday gift-giving season, the beleaguered institution was forced to halt deliveries from several less-essential companies in order to handle surging demand, after DeJoy limited overtime pay in an effort to keep costs down.
The 58-page “Delivering for America” plan, unveiled by DeJoy, is the Postal Service’s response to its recent struggles—and it promises to be no less controversial. Major changes for customers include longer delivery times, as the standard for first-class letters and flats could be extended from three days to five days, fewer hours of operation at low-traffic post offices, and higher postage prices…”
Gizmodo: “Time is something that most of us want more of, and one way to reclaim some of the minutes in the day is enlist your computer to automatically take care of repetitive tasks like renaming files, resizing images, and launching apps. With the right software, this is doable, and we’re going to introduce you to some of our favorite tools for the job. Besides the applications we’ve mentioned below, individual apps themselves often have features for recording automations or macros, which are combinations of actions that can be repeated again and again—whether that’s rotating a photo or saving a text document as a PDF. It’s worth digging into the software you use most often to see if those programs have some macro recording capabilities of their own. In Microsoft Word, for example, open up the View tab on the ribbon menu, then choose Macros and Record Macro to get started. In Adobe Photoshop, you can click the Create new action button (a small plus icon in a box) at the bottom of the Actions dialog box (choose Window and then Actions if you can’t see it)…”
Inside Higher Ed – “Seeking sustainable new revenue streams, 16 major university presses have partnered with a for-profit publishing house to sell digital versions of their annual front-list collections. Sixteen major university presses have signed with a Berlin-based scholarly publishing house, De Gruyter, as part of a new initiative to broker ebook sales between presses and university libraries. The idea behind the University Press Library initiative is for the institutions to sell digital collections of their entire front lists of new titles to university libraries. Under this plan, a library could purchase Stanford University Press’s entire 2021 collection in digital format, for example. Steve Fallon, De Gruyter’s vice president for the Americas and strategic partnerships, said the goal of the initiative is to generate a sustainable revenue stream for presses that can count on a library buying an electronic version of every single new title — including academically important but lesser-used scholarly monographs, not just books in higher demand…”
Washington Post – 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades: “Until two lethal rampages this month, mass shootings had largely been absent from headlines during the coronavirus pandemic. But people were still dying — at a record rate. In 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than any other year in at least two decades. An additional 24,000 people died by suicide with a gun. The vast majority of these tragedies happen far from the glare of the national spotlight, unfolding instead in homes or on city streets and — like the covid-19 crisis — disproportionately affecting communities of color…”
Freedom House Special Report 2021 – From Crisis to Reform: A Call to Strengthen America’s Battered Democracy: “The events of the past several months amounted to an acute crisis for democracy in the United States. An incumbent president attempted to overturn election results, a violent mob assaulted the Capitol as Congress met to formalize his defeat, and lawmakers failed to hold the outgoing leader accountable for his reckless actions, leaving him in place as the de facto chief of his party. The country avoided the worst possible outcomes. Police, at great cost, protected members of Congress from harm. The election results were given fair hearing in the courts and ultimately confirmed, and there was a peaceful transfer of power. But the crisis did not arise suddenly from an otherwise healthy political environment. US democracy is in urgent need of repair. The problems that came to a head in January had been accumulating for years. Freedom House has been tracking a gradual decline in respect for political rights and civil liberties in the United States over the past decade. The deterioration was initially marked by harmful new restrictions on voting, legislative gridlock that has made it nearly impossible for the country to address serious public policy challenges, and the growing political influence of well-funded special interest groups. The downward trend accelerated considerably over the last four years, as the Trump administration trampled institutional and normative checks on its authority, cast aside safeguards against corruption, and imposed harsh and discriminatory policies governing immigration and asylum. The United States remains a Free country, and Americans enjoy a more robust system than the vast majority of people globally. Yet when considered from a global perspective, the erosion of US democracy is remarkable, especially for a country that has long aspired to serve as a beacon of freedom for the world. A decade ago, the United States received a score of 94 out of 100 in Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties. That put it in the company of other established democracies, such as France and Germany. Today, whereas those former peers remain at 90 or above, the United States has fallen to a score of 83, leaving it in a cohort with newer democracies like Romania, Croatia, and Panama The prominence and global influence of the United States mean that its woes have a uniquely damaging effect on democracy in the rest of the world…”
Consumer Checklist Garden Center Ratings – Choose the region to view garden center ratings in your area. [h/t Barclay Walsh]
CRS – Federal Data on Hate Crimes in the United States, March 22, 2021: “A number of recent and high-profile crimes where the offenders’ actions appeared to be motivated by their bias or animosity towards a particular race, ethnicity,religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity has contributed to a perception that hate crimes are on the rise in the United States.These incidents might also generate interest among policymakers about how the federal government collects data on hate crimes committed in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started its Hate Crime Statistics program pursuant to the requirement in the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HSCA,P.L. 101-275) that the Department of Justice (DOJ) collect and report data on crimes that “manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender and gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including where appropriate the crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape; aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation; arson; and destruction, damage or vandalism of property.” In addition to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics program, DOJ also collects data on hate crime victimizations through the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS’) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS measures self-reported criminal victimizations including those perceived by victims to be motivated by an offender’s bias against them for belonging to or being associated with a group largely identified by the characteristics outlined in the HSCA.Scholars, advocates, and members of the media have pointed out that there is a significant disparity between the number of hate crimes reported by the FBI each year and the number of hate crime victimizations reported by BJS. This has led some to criticize the hate crime data published by the FBI as an undercount of the number of hate crimes committed in the United States each year. However, this statistics gap can be partially explained by the different measures and methodologies utilized by the FBI and BJS to collect these data. For example, the FBI only reports on crimes that have been reported to the police, while BJS collects reports of criminal victimizations that may or may not meet the statutory definition of a hate crime and may or may not have been reported to the police. There are a number of reasons why some victims do not report their victimization to the police, including fear of reprisal, not wanting the offender to get in trouble, believing that police would not or could not do anything to help, and believing the crime to be a personal issue or too trivial to report…”