Posts Tagged ‘technology’

“Impenetrable legalese” and the push to regulate

The lead anecdote in a Bloomberg story on the evils of tech fine print is on PayPal deleting the accounts of persons who joined before age 18. Yet on its own internal evidence, this seemingly irrational action is pretty clearly a response to the risk of liability/regulatory exposures rather than some act of random malice. How many more instances of pointless runaround or “impenetrable legalese” are going to be occasioned by the ongoing push to regulate and assign new liability to data-intensive businesses? [Nate Lanxon, Bloomberg]

November 1 roundup

  • Antitrust crackdown on Big Tech based on predictions of where markets may head in future? Just don’t [Alan Reynolds in part three of series; parts one and two]
  • Copyright holder sends mass demands to IP address holders, but for lower amounts and as “fines” rather than settlements. A move away from troll model, or refinement of it? [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • Among the many issues far afield from Bill of Rights that ACLU is up to lately: defending drive-by ADA filing operations against remedial legislation [ACLU, earlier on its drift from civil liberties mission]
  • Texas AG sues arguing unconstitutionality of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); case involves blocking of “adoption [that] has the support of the boy’s biological parents and grandmother, Paxton said.” [Texas Tribune] More: Timothy Sandefur, NR;
  • More local and personal than my usual fare, I ramble about my education and upbringing, why I live where I live, as well as some policy matters [Frederick News-Post “Frederick Uncut” local-newsmaker podcast with Colin McGuire and Danielle Gaines]
  • “What’s the Difference between ‘Major,’ ‘Significant,’ and All Those Other Federal Rule Categories?” [Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr., CEI]

Ellen Pao and the tech diversity sector

The Silicon Valley figure, known for an unsuccessful sex discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins, basks in largely favorable press as well as the praise of figures like Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandburg. Naomi Schaefer Riley, however, takes a contrary view [Commentary, I’m quoted] Even as Pao writes pieces in the popular press encouraging techies to turn their discontents into legal claims against their employers, she urges the services of her Project Include on the same employers:

Much of the evidence suggests that sensitivity training does little good. And in some cases, talking to employees about negative stereotyping of women or racial minorities might actually spur employees to think negatively about their colleagues in ways they hadn’t considered before.

Which brings us back to the threat of litigation. Thanks to Pao’s case, companies are not only quivering over multimillion-dollar lawsuits, they are also considering ways to mitigate the possibility. And that means working with people like Pao to provide cover. While they may not be able to, or even care to, control the behavior of individual employees, they’d at least like to avoid the accusation of a “hostile workplace,” which could cost considerably more in court. Working with Pao and her colleagues won’t automatically ensure that lawsuits against them get thrown out, but signing on to Project Include will go a long way toward protecting them.

October 11 roundup

“FBI Arrests Hacker Who Hacked No One”

Can the feds make conspiracy/aiding and abetting charges stick against software maker Taylor Huddleston, creator of a software tool that can be used by both bad and good players? “Because NanoCore has both legal and illegal uses, establishing that Huddleston wrote it for criminals is crucial for prosecutors. ‘It’s a dual-use technology case,’ says [Cornell law prof James] Grimmelman. ‘And you typically don’t get criminal liability in dual-use technology cases unless there’s a pretty clear intent to promote the criminal use instead of the legitimate ones.'” [Kevin Poulsen, The Daily Beast]

“…a federal crime to visit a website after being told not to visit it”

Last week’s Ninth Circuit case of Facebook v. Vachani is making many observers uneasy. Orin Kerr writes:

For those of us worried about broad readings of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the decision is quite troubling. Its reasoning appears to be very broad. If I’m reading it correctly, it says that if you tell people not to visit your website, and they do it anyway knowing you disapprove, they’re committing a federal crime of accessing your computer without authorization. … This was a civil dispute, but the CFAA is also criminal statute.

It’s possible that the Circuit might clarify the ruling should it grant en banc review.

You profited when I solved your CAPTCHA and I want money for that

A California court has dismissed an intended class action suit against Google claiming that it reaped undeserved profit when users solved CAPTCHA letter-recognition problems that assisted in solving passages that had gone undeciphered in Google’s own OCR scanning. The ruling “reinforces [the principle] that not every asymmetrical economic benefit exchanged online must be compensated. Parties in a mutual exchange rarely get the exact same amount of value from the exchange, but the fact that one party derives more value from the exchange than the other shouldn’t create a federal case.” [Eric Goldman]

Encryption and the Paris attacks

Almost at once after the Paris attacks, speculation began to circulate that the murderers had used encrypted communications to plan their operation and that legislation giving government backdoor tools to break encryption was therefore needed more urgently than ever. Later reports have suggested, however, that the plotters employed a combination of plain vanilla unencrypted messaging with in-person communication. [Karl Bode/TechDirt, The Verge, Vice “Motherboard” (“How the Baseless ‘Terrorists Communicating Over Playstation 4’ Rumor Got Started”)] Related: Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg View. A contrary view: Alex Spence and Duncan Gardham, Politico Europe.