Posts Tagged ‘technology’

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.

The race to patent Crispr

Amy Maxmen, Wired on the advances in DNA editing (via Jason Kuznicki):

But the attorney filing for Zhang checked a box on the application marked “accelerate” and paid a fee, usually somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000. A series of emails followed between agents at the US Patent and Trademark Office and the Broad’s patent attorneys, who argued that their claim was distinct.

A little more than a year after those human-cell papers came out, Doudna was on her way to work when she got an email telling her that Zhang, the Broad Institute, and MIT had indeed been awarded the patent on Crispr-Cas9 as a method to edit genomes. “I was quite surprised,” she says, “because we had filed our paperwork several months before he had.”

“Feds Who Didn’t Even Discover The OPM Hack Themselves…”

“…Still Say We Should Give Them Cybersecurity Powers” The spectacular breach of Office of Personnel Management records, which exposed to China-based hackers information on every federal employee as well as the obviously sensitive contents of security clearance applications, was revealed when a vendor of security services was allowed to do a sales presentation on the federal network in question and discovered the already-exploited vulnerability. But of course the feds will be totally competent in prescribing practice to the private sector, right? [Mike Masnick, TechDirt] Earlier on regulation of private-sector electronic security here, here, etc. Related: W$J (DHS couldn’t move to secure networks without engaging in collective bargaining first). Related: pending bills “authorize government to impose data retention mandate on private businesses”

Update: N.M. court rejects suit against neighbor’s use of electronic devices

Updating a post from five years ago (related), a New Mexico appeals court has upheld the dismissal on summary judgment of Arthur Firstenburg’s lawsuit against next-door neighbor Raphaela Monribot for refusing to turn off her cellphone, computer, dimmer switches, and other electronic paraphernalia, which Firstenburg alleged cause him injury because he experiences electromagnetic sensitivity, or EMS, an acute sensitivity to electronic radiation, a condition on which (per the court) he has been drawing Social Security disability payments since 1992. The trial court excluded the proffered testimony of Firstenburg’s expert witnesses on causation; without it, it found that his claims of causation necessarily failed for lack of admissible evidence. More: George Johnson, New York Times.