PRG News Roundup, October 27, 2021

Donald Trump’s new social network, Truth Social, has been reported to be a thinly disguised variant of the Mastodon social network codebase.  Mastodon is free software that anyone can use as long as they comply with Mastodon’s license terms, which Truth Social may be in violation of.

Donald Trumps social media company will be funded by a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC).  Michael Ohlrogge here at NYU has recently released a paper on the subject.

YouTube, Snap, and TikTok executives testified before the Senate Commerce Committee.  The senators were particularly concerned with the platforms’ impact on young people, reflecting concerns that have percolated around Facebook in recent days. 

Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), introduced legislation to secure and protect information handled by federal contractors using AI technology.  The bill would require OMB to establish and consult the Artificial Intelligence Hygiene Working Group to ensure that government contractors are securing data like biometrics that preserve privacy rights and national security.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) penned an op-ed in Just Security calling for the end of secret laws, given the evolution of government surveillance and markets for private information.

The Journal of Online Trust and Safety is launching its inaugural issue this week. ILI Fellow Aniket Kesari will be featured!

According to Microsoft, a victim of the SolarWinds hack, the group behind the attack, Nobelium, is targeting technology companies that sell and provide cloud services. 

A cyberattack disrupted the sale of heavily subsidised gasoline in Iran on Tuesday, state media reported, causing long queues at gas stations across the country weeks before the anniversary of 2019 street protests that followed fuel price hikes.

Parents or individuals under eighteen years old will be able to request that images of their children or themselves be removed from Google search results unless there is “compelling public interest or newsworthiness.”

Digital rights advocate Elliot Harmon, who was the Director of Communications at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, passed away Saturday.

Baltimore school-issued laptops include monitoring software that helps track when their student users begin to exhibit mental health issues. 

The Center for Democracy and Technology also has some writing on school issued devices. One of the big findings it that poor students are far more likely to be monitored than wealthy ones.  In addition, CDT raises concerns that this software can be unduly intrusive and may discourage students from expressing themselves. 

Sam Altman, a former president of the Y Combinator tech startup accelerator, has developed a cryptocurrency that would be equally distributed across the world population via a retina scan.  The project has faced backlash from the privacy community. 

PRG member Alexandre de Streel will join the Guarini Colloquium on Monday to discuss the EU’s proposals for a digital markets act and a digital services act.  If you are interested in attending, please email guariniglobal@nyu.edu (NYU Law community members can attend in person).

North Carolina prisons have prohibited physical mail including cards, photos, and correspondence in favor of digital scans of mail for inmates. 

(Prepared by Student Fellow Coordinator Justin Lee)