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Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002
Updated: 2 hours 46 min ago

AP reports – High-tech deception of ‘deepfake’ videos

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 13:43

AP News -I never said that! “…New technology on the internet lets anyone make videos of real people appearing to say things they’ve never said. Republicans and Democrats predict this high-tech way of putting words in someone’s mouth will become the latest weapon in disinformation wars against the United States and other Western democracies. We’re not talking about lip-syncing videos. This technology uses facial mapping and artificial intelligence to produce videos that appear so genuine it’s hard to spot the phonies. Lawmakers and intelligence officials worry that the bogus videos — called deepfakes — could be used to threaten national security or interfere in elections. So far, that hasn’t happened, but experts say it’s not a question of if, but when.

“I expect that here in the United States we will start to see this content in the upcoming midterms and national election two years from now,” said Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. “The technology, of course, knows no borders, so I expect the impact to ripple around the globe.”

Categories: Law and Legal

President’s Selection of a Nominee for a Supreme Court Vacancy: Overview

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 21:19 – President’s Selection of a Nominee for a Supreme Court Vacancy: Overview, June 27, 2018: “On June 27, 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy, after serving on the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice since 1988, announced his intention to retire from the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy indicated that his retirement would be effective July 31, 2018. This Insight provides an overview of several issues related to the selection of a nominee by a President for a vacancy on the Court. For additional information and analyses on these and other issues, see CRS Report R44235, Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee.

The Role of Senate Advice – When a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court, it becomes the President’s constitutional responsibility to select a successor to the vacating Justice, as well as the constitutional responsibility of the Senate to exercise its role in providing “advice and consent” to the President. Constitutional scholars have differed in how much importance the Framers of the Constitution attached to the word “advice” in the phrase “advice and consent.” Historically, the degree to which Senate advice has been sought or used has varied, depending on the President. It is a common, though not universal, practice for Presidents, as a matter of courtesy, to consult with Senate party leaders as well as with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee before choosing a nominee. Presidents have also traditionally consulted with a candidate’s home state Senators, especially if they are of the same political party as the President.

Criteria for Selecting a Nominee – While the precise criteria used in selecting a Supreme Court nominee vary from President to President, two general motivations appear to underlie the choices of almost every President. One is the desire to have the nomination serve the President’s political interests (in the partisan and electoral senses of the word “political,” as well as in the public policy sense); the second is to demonstrate that a search was successfully made for a nominee having the highest professional qualifications. Other criteria might include a nominee’s reputation for integrity and impartiality, demographic considerations, and the personal qualities of the nominee…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Commentary – It’s time to rein in the data barons

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 21:14

MIT Technology Review – Martin Giles: “Facebook, Amazon, and Google will resist attempts to restrain their market power. But for the sake of our collective prosperity and our personal privacy, it’s a fight we can’t afford to lose…With over two billion users, the company is the colossus of social networking, dwarfing rivals like Twitter and Snapchat. Along with Amazon and Google, which is owned by holding company Alphabet, it dominates the internet landscape. Apple and Microsoft are often mentioned in the same breath as these tech giants, but their business lines are more varied and less internet-centric—enterprise software in Microsoft’s case, phones and other devices in Apple’s. There’s another key difference too. Facebook, Google, and Amazon all have business models that require them to scoop up large amounts of data about people to power their algorithms, and they derive their power from this information. It’s the sheer scale and sophistication of the data-collection empires they’ve built that make them so distinctive. For the past decade or so, these three firms have had a relatively smooth ride to the top. Their cornucopia of services, often provided for free, made them immensely popular and turned them into some of the most valuable businesses in the world. Their combined market capitalization of some $2 trillion at the end of May was roughly equal to the GDP of taly. Now, however, debates are in full swing on both sides of the Atlantic about how to deal with their dominance…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Strawless Ocean Campaign

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 19:14

For a Strawless Ocean: “Plastic straws are really bad for the ocean. We use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. We want to encourage people to stop using plastic straws for good. If we don’t act now, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
AREN’T PLASTIC STRAWS RECYCLABLE? – Most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials and are too small to separate, contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed as garbage.
HOW DO PLASTIC STRAWS GET INTO THE OCEAN? – Plastic straws end up in the ocean primarily through human error, often 1) left on beaches in coastal communities and seaside resorts globally 2) littered OR 3) blown out of trash cans (oftentimes overfilled) or transport boats and vehicles. While some city’s waste management infrastructure is sound (like Seattle, for instance), not all communities have the same level of accountability. Remember, all gutters and storm drains lead to our ocean!
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THEY’RE IN THE WATER? – An estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. When they ingest plastic, marine life has a 50% mortality rate. What would our oceans be without marine life? (source: Communication with Chris Wilcox, CSIRO, primary and contributing author to both studies cited) What’s equally as bad, perhaps even worse is that when plastic does make it into the ocean it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces known as “microplastics” rather than biodegrading or dissolving, which poses great threats to marine life including fish. What if people need to use a straw, are there alternatives? Yes, some people need a straw! Anyone who has had a stroke, has autism, MS or other life changing physical issue needs a straw and often a compostable plastic straw works best. We have those available, if in need…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Draft Bill – Trump Administration abandons foundation of WTO

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 18:58

Axios has obtained a leaked draft of a Trump administration bill [scroll down to see the text of the bill embedded in this article as referenced] — ordered by the president himself — that would declare America’s abandonment of fundamental World Trade Organization rules. The draft legislation is stunning. The bill essentially provides Trump a license to raise U.S. tariffs at will, without congressional consent and international rules be damned. We’ve included the full draft text on our site. Axios retyped the leaked document to protect our source. The details: The bill, titled the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act,” would give Trump unilateral power to ignore the two most basic principles of the WTO and negotiate one-on-one with any country: The “Most Favored Nation” (MFN) principle that countries can’t set different tariff rates for different countries outside of free trade agreements; “Bound tariff rates” — the tariff ceilings that each WTO country has already agreed to in previous negotiations.

“It would be the equivalent of walking away from the WTO and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal,” said a source familiar with the bill. “The good news is Congress would never give this authority to the president,” the source added, describing the bill as “insane.” “It’s not implementable at the border,” given it would create potentially tens of thousands of new tariff rates on products. “And it would completely remove us from the set of global trade rules.”

Categories: Law and Legal

New books – Wars of None: AI, Big Data, and the Future of Insurgency

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 17:12

Lawfare: “…The definitive work on emerging technology and insurgency has yet be written, but two recent books offer suggestions for how the era of big data and AI will affect the United States’ modern conflicts. Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict, by Eli Berman, Joseph Felter, and Jacob Shapiro, offers few musings about the future of insurgency, but lays out a compelling theory about the ways in which information shapes insurgent violence. By contrast, Paul Scharre’s excellent new book, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, offers little in the way of counterinsurgency strategy, but is wholly concerned with how artificial intelligence will reshape armed conflict. Taken together, they begin to sketch out a vision for how AI and big data might alter insurgent dynamics….”

Categories: Law and Legal

Federal and State Wiretaps Skyrocket in Trump’s First Year

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 17:09 Law Enforcement Sought 3,800 Taps—Not One Request Rejected—And It’s Not All Drug Dealers, David Cay Johnston: “The number of court-approved federal wiretaps rose 30% during Donald Trump’s first year in office, the latest indicator sign of how his administration is shifting our government from facilitating a healthy society into something closer to a police state. Not a single wiretap request, federal or state, was rejected by any judge, an annual disclosure report from the federal courts released on Wednesday. Nearly all the taps were of mobile phones. The report does not include national security intercepts–where, according to a separate report, judges rejected more requests last year than they had, in total, over the 38 years before that. As for the new wiretapping report, while of 3,813 taps were sought and approved, that almost certainly understates the actual number by close to a thousand. That’s because each year many officials were slow complying with the annual disclosures that Congress requires. Based on reports in the previous decade, which had to be revised because officials were late reporting approved wiretaps, as Congress requires they do annually. When the late reports are counted and disclosed next year it is likely that the increase in wiretaps will be not 30% but well more than 40%…”

Categories: Law and Legal

llustrated Maps of New York Through the Ages

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 16:50

llustrated Maps of New York Through the Ages By The Paris Review

“Since their inception, maps have been embellished with illustrations. Through July 16, a selection of illustrated maps of New York spanning six centuries is on view at the New York Public Library. A preview of the exhibition—along with captions written by its curator Katharine Harmon—is presented in this article.”

Categories: Law and Legal

CRS Social Security Death Benefit Update – and How SS benefits are calculated

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 16:47 “Social Security is formally known as the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. This report focuses on the Survivors Insurance component of Social Security. When workers die, their spouses, former spouses, and dependents may qualify for Social Security survivors benefits. This report describes how a worker becomes covered by Survivors Insurance and outlines the types and amounts of benefits available to survivors and eligibility for those benefits. This report also provides current data on survivor beneficiaries and benefits.” [h/t Pete Weiss]

See also via – How Social Security Benefits Are Computed: In Brief – “Social Security, the largest program in the federal budget (in terms of outlays), provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members as well as to the family members of deceased workers. In 2017, benefit outlays were approximately $952 billion, with roughly 62 million beneficiaries and 174 million workers in Social Security-covered employment. Under current law, Social Security’s revenues are projected to be insufficient to pay full scheduled benefits after 2034…”

Categories: Law and Legal

White House Produces No Evidence It Considered Public Input on Reorganizing Government

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 15:50

Government Executive: “The White House has no records relating to its categorization or analysis of public input on how it should reorganize government, according to the results of a lawsuit filed by a watchdog group. Following President Trump’s 2017 executive order calling on all federal agencies to reform themselves by shedding workers and restructuring their operations, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney personally called on American citizens to submit their ideas for “making the federal government more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people.” OMB subsequently set up a website for the public to submit those ideas, and later said it had received more than 100,000 submissions and distributed them to relevant agencies. It then took the site down, leading Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the public feedback. PEER, a frequent critic of the Trump administration, sued OMB after it did not hear back. That in turn led OMB’s FOIA office to inform PEER that it had “conducted a search of its files for documents that are responsive to the request and no responsive records were located…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Facebook gave 61 companies access to sensitive user data

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 15:42

WSJ (paywall) – “Facebook Inc. disclosed it gave dozens of companies special access to user data, detailing for the first time a spate of deals that contrasted with the social network’s previous public statements that it restricted personal information to outsiders in 2015. The deals with app developers, device and software makers, described in 747 pages of documents released to Congress late on Friday / govdoc no paywall [June 29, 2018] represent Facebook’s most granular explanation of exemptions that previously had been revealed by The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations. The revelations come as lawmakers have demanded accountability at Facebook for allowing companies access to data on its billions of users without their knowledge, and questioned how far the universe of firms extends. Facebook said in Friday’s document that the special deals were required to give app developers time to become compliant with changes in its policies, and to enable device and software makers to create versions of the social network for their products. The company revealed it was still sharing information of users’ friends, such as name, gender, birth date, current city or hometown, photos and page likes, with 61 app developers nearly six months after it said it stopped access to this data in 2015. Facebook said it gave these 61 firms—which ranged from the dating app Hinge to shipping giant United Parcel Service Inc.—a six-month extension for them to “come into compliance” with the 2015 policy. In addition, five other companies “theoretically could have accessed limited friends’ data” because of access they received as part of a Facebook experiment, the company said in the document…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Whistleblower’s guilty plea and unmistakable trail of watermarks

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 15:20

Axios: “Reality Winner has pleaded guilty: “All of my actions I did willfully, meaning I did so of my own free will,” she told a court on Tuesday, per the New York Times‘ report. The former Air Force linguist earned the distinction of being the first person prosecuted by the Trump administration on charges of leaking classified information under the Espionage Act. Her defense struck a deal with the Justice Department that would have her serve 63 months in prison and three years of supervised release. (A judge must now decide whether to approve the sentence.) Federal authorities accused Winner last year of leaking a classified report concerning Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They believed her to have sent the document to The Intercept, a news outlet funded by Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, which published it online in full. For all its talk of protecting whistleblowers, The Intercept made a rookie mistake: uploading a scanned copy of the original report, which contained telltale, electronic traces all but confirming Winner as the culprit. The pages bore unmistakable watermarks—printer microdots—that identified their source. Although the FBI did not mention the dots in its court filings, the agency did say it was able to determine the leaked document was a printout thanks to crease marks. The dots no doubt clinched the case. Whatever your stance on Winner’s situation may be, her undoing at least provides a valuable lesson to would-be whistleblowers and media outlets: Heed the dots. Indeed, already there are workarounds. A new paper authored by four German researchers at the Technical University of Dresden describes a method for overcoming these watermarks. Having decoded a variety of dot arrangements, the team suggests adding additional dots in precise ways so as to thwart the tagging technique, rendering output anonymous. You can test out the group’s obfuscation tools here…”

Categories: Law and Legal

NYT – How conservatives weaponized the First Amendment

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 13:57

How conservatives weaponized the First Amendment: “…The Citizens United campaign finance case, for instance, was decided on free-speech grounds, with the five-justice conservative majority ruling that the First Amendment protects unlimited campaign spending by corporations. The government, the majority said, has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters responded that the First Amendment did not require allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace and corrupt democracy. “The libertarian position has become dominant on the right on First Amendment issues,” said Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the Cato Institute. “It simply means that we should be skeptical of government attempts to regulate speech. That used to be an uncontroversial and nonideological point. What’s now being called the libertarian position on speech was in the 1960s the liberal position on speech.” And an increasingly conservative judiciary has been more than a little receptive to this argument. A new analysis prepared for The New York Times found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been far more likely to embrace free-speech arguments concerning conservative speech than liberal speech. That is a sharp break from earlier eras. As a result, liberals who once championed expansive First Amendment rights are now uneasy about them. “The left was once not just on board but leading in supporting the broadest First Amendment protections,” said Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer and a supporter of broad free-speech rights. “Now the progressive community is at least skeptical and sometimes distraught at the level of First Amendment protection which is being afforded in cases brought by litigants on the right.” Many on the left have traded an absolutist commitment to free speech for one sensitive to the harms it can inflict…To the contrary, free speech reinforces and amplifies injustice, Catharine A. MacKinnon, a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in “The Free Speech Century,” a collection of essays to be published this year…”

And an increasingly conservative judiciary has been more than a little receptive to this argument. A new analysis prepared for The New York Times found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been far more likely to embrace free-speech arguments concerning conservative speech than liberal speech. That is a sharp break from earlier eras.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Crossing the Big Data / Data Science Analytics Chasm

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 00:01

Data Science Central: “The key of any organization’s digital transformation is becoming more effective at leveraging data and analytics to power their business models. That is, how can organizations exploit the growing bounty of internal and external data sources to uncover new sources of customer, product, service, operational and market insights that they can use to optimize key business and operational processes, mitigate compliance and cybersecurity risks, uncover new monetization opportunities, and create a more compelling, differentiated customer experience..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Legal Writing Tools for Mac Lawyers

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 23:45

Law Technology Today: “Mac computers are now the preferred choice for young professionals, including young lawyers and law students. And many other firms have become Mac enthusiasts. Whether you love the interface, the physical design, or whether you got fed up with the Blue Screen of Death and slow forced updates, it’s great to know that more legal tech developers are bringing their products to the Mac platform…”

Categories: Law and Legal New, Tip, and Top for June 2018, Part 2

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 23:44

In Custodia Legis: “Earlier this month, Andrew provided an update on the enhancements, including that the date of the “Previous Meeting” on the homepage is now linked to a list of items that were on the House or Senate floor that day. The previous release also included errata, a published correction for a committee report that, if applicable, will display in the overview box of the committee report. In this release,  you will find that ”On the Floor” reports are now linked from the “Yesterday in Congress” browse, so you can quickly locate detailed information about what was considered on the previous legislative day. We’re also introducing notifications that users can subscribe to in order to receive news and information about new features and system maintenance…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Little Things and Big Challenges: Information Privacy and the Internet of Things

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 23:37

Brill, Hillary and Jones, Scott, Little Things and Big Challenges: Information Privacy and the Internet of Things (June 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

“The Internet of Things (IoT), the wireless connection of devices to ourselves, each other, and the Internet, has transformed our lives and our society in unimaginable ways. Today, billions of electronic devices and sensors collect, store, and analyze personal information from how fast we drive, to how fast our hearts beat, to how much and what we watch on TV. Even children provide billions of bits of personal information to the cloud through “smart” toys that capture images, recognize voices, and more. The unprecedented and unbridled new information flow generated from the little things of the IoT is creating big challenges for privacy regulators. Traditional regulators are armed with conventional tools not fully capable of handling the privacy challenges of the IoT. A critical review of recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforcement decisions sheds light on a recommended path for the future regulation of the IoT. This Article first examines the pervasiveness of the IoT and the data it collects in order to clarify the challenges facing regulators. It also highlights traditional privacy laws, principles, and regulations and explains why those rules do not fit the novel challenges and issues resulting from the IoT. Then it presents an in-depth analysis of four key FTC enforcement decisions to highlight how the FTC has and can regulate the IoT without undermining the innovation and benefits that this technology — and the data it provides — brings to our society.”

Categories: Law and Legal

New rule covers purchasing authority for cyber emergencies

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 23:33 “The federal government is moving to expand emergency procurement authority for purchases used to respond to or recover from a cyberattack, according to a new proposed rule in the Federal Register. The change places cyberattacks against the United States in the same category as nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attacks. It would allow federal procurement officials to spend up to $20,000 for domestic purchases and $30,000 for international purchases under micropurchasing rules, as well as $750,000 and $1.5 million for simplified acquisition purchases, provided the work has “a clear and direct relationship to the support of a contingency operation.” The notice — put out by the Department of Defense, General Services Administration and NASA — implements several provisions from the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that increase the dollar threshold for agency purchases that are in support of federal efforts to respond to an emergency or a disaster…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Report – How tech companies use dark patterns to discourage us from exercising our rights to privacy

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 23:05
The Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) – “In this report, we analyze a sample of settings in Facebook, Google and Windows 10, and show how default settings and dark patterns, techniques and features of interface design meant to manipulate users, are used to nudge users towards privacy intrusive options. The findings include privacy intrusive default settings, misleading wording, giving users an illusion of control, hiding away privacy-friendly choices, take-it-or-leave-it choices, and choice architectures where choosing the privacy friendly option requires more effort for the users. Facebook and Google have privacy intrusive defaults, where users who want the privacy friendly option have to go through a significantly longer process. They even obscure some of these settings so that the user cannot know that the more privacy intrusive option was preselected. The popups from Facebook, Google and Windows 10 have design, symbols and wording that nudge users away from the privacy friendly choices. Choices are worded to compel users to make certain choices, while key information is omitted or downplayed. None of them lets the user freely postpone decisions. Also, Facebook and Google threaten users with loss of functionality or deletion of the user account if the user does not choose the privacy intrusive option. The GDPR settings from Facebook, Google and Windows 10 provide users with granular choices regarding the collection and use of personal data. At the same time, we find that the service providers employ numerous tactics in order to nudge or push consumers toward sharing as much data as possible…”
Categories: Law and Legal

A Twitter Bot Has Joined the Immigration Battle to Fight ICE With Facts

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 22:48

Gizmodo: “A bot on Twitter is sharing images of all 212 immigration detention centers along with the address and demographic information of each location, tossing cold, hard facts into the heated online debate over immigration in America. Artist Everest Pipkin created the bot, @Abolish_ICE_Now, on Friday, about two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the “zero tolerance” policy that has resulted in U.S. Border Patrol agents separating thousands of undocumented children from their parents—an unspeakably cruel policy child health care professionals have characterized as “a form of child abuse.”…

Categories: Law and Legal