Law and Legal
The Times of India – BHILAR (MAHARASHTRA): “A cosy sofa and wicker chairs overlooking a beautiful valley, the quiet of a village, and lush strawberry fields all around — what more could a romantic soul wish for? It’s the setting for a great novel, perhaps even a great travel story. But this isn’t fiction; this is the living room of Bhiku Bhilare of Bhilar village, Maharashtra. But it offers much more than a picture-perfect setting — it also doubles up as a library. Until recently, the village, just a few kilometres from the picturesque hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, was known for growing the best strawberries in the country. Now, it is a unique ‘village of books’ with 25 villagers having given up a part of their homes to set up open libraries. The idea was inspired by the Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye, which is informally known as the ‘town of books’, and has scores of second-hand and antiquarian bookstores. But the Maharashtra government has made the concept their own and expanded its scope. Its Marathi language department’s experts meticulously put together a collection of over 30,000 books organised under various genres. These were then distributed among the home libraries, as well as public places like temples and schools. Each home is allotted books pertaining to one genre and identified with street signs and wall paintings…”
CRS Report via LC – Internet of Things (IoT): An Introduction, June 4, 2019 – “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated devices that are connected to a network and/or to each other, exchanging data without necessarily requiring human-to-machine interaction. In other words, IoT is a collection of electronic devices that can share information among themselves. Examples include smart factories, smart home devices, medical monitoring devices,wearable fitness trackers, smart city infrastructures, and vehicular telematics. Potential issues for Congress include regulation, digital privacy, and data security as discussed below.
“According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, two out of every three prosecutions were for the offense of unlawful shipment, transfer, receipt, or possession of a firearm by a felon. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was the lead investigative agency for 63.5 percent of prosecutions referred. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was second with 13.2 percent, followed by referrals from state and local authorities with 8.9 percent. The Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) ranked first with the most weapons prosecutions filed (403) and a rate relative to its population size of almost seven times the national average. It was also ranked most active (relative to its population) during FY 2018 as well. The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with weapons-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained after successful litigation by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act.”
ProPublica – Search the full text of nearly 3 million nonprofit IRS filings, including investments and grants given to other nonprofits. “On June 6, 2019] we launched a new feature for our Nonprofit Explorer database: The ability to search the full text of nearly 3 million electronically filed nonprofit tax filings sent to the IRS since 2011. Nonprofit Explorer already lets researchers, reporters and the general public search for tax information from more than 1.8 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, as well as allowing users to search for the names of key employees and directors of organizations. Now, users of our free database can dig deep and search for text that appears anywhere in a nonprofit’s tax records, as long as those records were filed digitally — which according to the IRS covers about two-thirds of nonprofit tax filings in recent years. [h/t Pete Weiss]
How can this be useful to you? For one, this feature lets you find organizations that gave grants to other nonprofits. Any nonprofit that gives grants to another must list those grants on its tax forms — meaning that you can research a nonprofit’s funding by using our search. A search for “ProPublica,” for example, will bring up dozens of foundations that have given us grants to fund our reporting (as well as a few filings that reference Nonprofit Explorer itself)…
“The Audubon Mural Project is a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Gitler &_____ Gallery to create murals of climate-threatened birds throughout John James Audubon’s old Harlem‐based neighborhood in New York City. The project is inspired by the legacy of the great American bird artist and pioneering ornithologist and is energized by Audubon’s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Report, which reveals at least half of all North American birds are threatened by a warming climate. The project commissions artists to paint murals of each of the report’s 314 species, and has been widely covered in the media, including The New York Times…
You can..take a self-guided tour using our printable map. When in New York City, be sure to check out the New-York Historical Society’s Birds of America gallery, which now features the mural project along with John James Audubon’s original watercolors. And if you’re in Chicago, be sure to check out a spin-off project in Rogers Park, featuring 13 climate-threatened birds that use habitats in the Chicago region…”
MIT Technology review – US regulators will investigate whether companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have too much power. Here’s an introduction to the issues – Four tech juggernauts—Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook—are suddenly the target of new scrutiny by the US government. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Congress have all begun to investigate whether these companies have too much power. Breaking up will be hard to do. It’s going to be a long process and the outcome is far from certain…”
“Data analytics and artificial intelligence are transforming our lives. Be it in health care, in banking and financial services, or in times of humanitarian crises — data determine the way decisions are made. But often, the way data is collected and measured can result in biased and incomplete information, and this can significantly impact outcomes. In a conversation with Knowledge@Wharton at the SWIFT Institute Conference on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in the Financial Services Industry, Alexandra Olteanu, a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research, U.S. and Canada, discussed the ethical and people considerations in data collection and artificial intelligence and how we can work towards removing the biases. This interview is part of an editorial collaboration between Knowledge@Wharton and the SWIFT Institute…”
EveryCRSReport – Technological Convergence: Regulatory, Digital Privacy, and Data Security Issues. May 30, 2019: “Technological convergence, in general, refers to the trend or phenomenon where two or more independent technologies integrate and form a new outcome. One example is the smartphone. A smartphone integrated several independent technologies—such as telephone, computer, camera, music player, television (TV), and geolocating and navigation tool—into a single device. The smartphone has become its own, identifiable category of technology, establishing a $350 billion industry.
Of the three closely associated convergences—technological convergence, media convergence, and network convergence—consumers most often directly engage with technological convergence. Technological convergent devices share three key characteristics. First, converged devices can execute multiple functions to serve blended purpose. Second, converged devices can collect and use data in various formats and employ machine learning techniques to deliver enhanced user experience. Third, converged devices are connected to a network directly and/or are interconnected with other devices to offer ubiquitous access to users…”
The New York Times – Go with your instinct over the wisdom of the crowd. “…The 21st-century virtual shopping experience can feel overwhelming and chaotic, but it’s the price we pay for the convenience of shopping at home. That’s why stars are everywhere. Without them, you’re vulnerable to decision paralysis. But with them, you still can’t shake the feeling that there’s a lot of homework to do — hours of life lost, scrolling through reviews, many of which were written by people who have little to nothing in common with you. It is completely understandable why we want to trust these ratings. But with a little more knowledge, we can free ourselves from being trapped by them…”
SocArXiv Papers – Darmon, A. N. M., Bazzi, M., Howison, S. D., & Porter, M. A. (2019, January 1). Pull out all the stops: Textual analysis via punctuation sequences. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/2rzsg
“Whether enjoying the lucid prose of a favorite author or slogging through some other writer’s cumbersome, heavy-set prattle (full of parentheses, em-dashes, compound adjectives, and Oxford commas), readers will notice stylistic signatures not only in word choice and grammar, but also in punctuation itself. Indeed, visual sequences of punctuation from different authors produce marvelously different (and visually striking) sequences. Punctuation is a largely overlooked stylistic feature in “stylometry”, the quantitative analysis of written text. In this paper, we examine punctuation sequences in a corpus of literary documents and ask the following questions: Are the properties of such sequences a distinctive feature of different authors? Is it possible to distinguish literary genres based on their punctuation sequences? Do the punctuation styles of authors evolve over time? Are we on to something interesting in trying to do stylometry without words, or are we full of sound and fury (signifying nothing)?”
Jason Scott – Internet Archive Blogs – The Internet Archive Python Library: “As someone who’s uploaded hundreds of thousands of items to the Internet Archive’s stacks and who has probably done a few million transactions with the materials over the years, I just “know” about the Internet Archive python client, and if you’re someone who wants to interact with the site as a power user (or were looking for an excuse to), it’ll help you to know about it too. You might even be the kind of power user who is elbowing me out of the way saying “show me the code and show me the documentation”. Well, the documentation is here and the code is here. Have a great time…”
Artificial Lawyer – “In a startling intervention that seeks to limit the emerging litigation analytics and prediction sector, the French Government has banned the publication of statistical information about judges’ decisions – with a five year prison sentence set as the maximum punishment for anyone who breaks the new law. Owners of legal tech companies focused on litigation analytics are the most likely to suffer from this new measure. The new law, encoded in Article 33 of the Justice Reform Act, is aimed at preventing anyone – but especially legal tech companies focused on litigation prediction and analytics – from publicly revealing the pattern of judges’ behaviour in relation to court decisions.
A key passage of the new law states: ‘The identity data of magistrates and members of the judiciary cannot be reused with the purpose or effect of evaluating, analysing, comparing or predicting their actual or alleged professional practices.’ *
As far as Artificial Lawyer understands, this is the very first example of such a ban anywhere in the world. Insiders in France told Artificial Lawyer that the new law is a direct result of an earlier effort to make all case law easily accessible to the general public, which was seen at the time as improving access to justice and a big step forward for transparency in the justice sector. However, judges in France had not reckoned on NLP and machine learning companies taking the public data and using it to model how certain judges behave in relation to particular types of legal matter or argument, or how they compare to other judges…”
In Custodia Legis – “Earlier this month, Andrew shared the update to our committee schedule page, which launched in January 2019. With this month’s second release, we have enhanced the navigation of member profile pages. When viewing a bill or resolution on a member profile page, you can use the navigation arrows to move from the next or previous item in the list without having to return to the profile page. New Enhancements for May 2019, Part 2 – Please find the full list of enhancements below…”
The Hill: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that chemicals linked to cancer are showing up in milk, meat, produce and even store-made chocolate cakes sold in the U.S., according to an agency study that has not yet been made public. Aspects of the study, presented last week at a scientific conference in Helsinki found the class of chemicals, abbreviated as PFAS, present in a number of other food products. PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because of the time it takes them to break down. The FDA said it plans to publicly release the findings after details of the study were leaked to The Hill and other U.S. media outlets by environmental groups. “I’m not sure why they released it there and not in the U.S., but I’m just glad it’s out,” said Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director with the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the groups that released the information.
The FDA confirmed the contents of the leaked report. The chemicals in question are used in a staggering number of products including food packaging. Some states have banned packaging that’s made with the chemicals, citing research that shows they can transfer to food items. PFAS has been linked with kidney and thyroid cancer along with high cholesterol and other illnesses. The FDA’s research showed that water contaminated with PFAS likely ends up in the food supply. Fourteen of 91 samples taken by the agency contained the chemicals, while almost half of all meat and seafood samples tested positive. PFAS has been found in the water supply near military bases, airports that often use firefighting foam and factories that manufacture products with PFAS…”
Ever wonder if all of the LinkedIn profiles that boast comprehensive expertise, outstanding performance, and enviable recommendations…are well, real? – Fake LinkedIn Profiles Are Impossible to Detect: “Don’t trust everything you see on LinkedIn. We created a fake LinkedIn profile with a fake job at a real company. Our fake profile garnered the attention of a Google recruiter and gained over 170 connections and 100 skill endorsements. Everyone is talking about fake accounts on Facebook and fake followers on Twitter. LinkedIn hasn’t been part of the conversation, but Microsoft’s social network also has a big problem…[Note – this article is a must read – I had no idea that it was so easy to create fake LinkedIn profiles with what appear to be actual work histories, connections and bona fides…]
Venture Beat: “Mozilla today announced a slew of privacy improvements. The company has turned on Enhanced Tracking Protection, which blocks cookies from third-party trackers in Firefox, by default. Mozilla has also improved its Facebook Container extension, released a Firefox desktop extension for its rebranded Lockwise password keeper, and updated Firefox Monitor with a dashboard for multiple email addresses.
But Enhanced Tracking Protection is the big one. Mozilla added basic Tracking Protection to Firefox 42’s private browsing mode in November 2015. The feature blocked website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) based on Disconnect‘s tracking protection rules. With the release of Firefox 57 in November 2017, Mozilla added an option to enable Tracking Protection outside of private browsing. (Tracking Protection was not turned on by default because it can break websites and cut off revenue streams for content creators who depend on third-party advertising.)..
If you download a fresh copy of Firefox today, Enhanced Tracking Protection will be on by default as part of the Standard setting. That means third-party tracking cookies are blocked without users having to change a thing. You will notice Enhanced Tracking Protection working if there is a shield icon in the address bar. If you click on the shield icon and open the Content Blocking section and then Cookies, you’ll see a Blocking Tracking Cookies section. There you can see the companies listed as third-party cookies and trackers that Firefox has blocked. You can also turn off blocking for a specific site…”
Face Recognition Technology: DOJ and FBI Have Taken Some Actions in Response to GAO Recommendations to Ensure Privacy
Face Recognition Technology: DOJ and FBI Have Taken Some Actions in Response to GAO Recommendations to Ensure Privacy and Accuracy, But Additional Work Remains. GAO-19-579T: Published: Jun 4, 2019. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 2019.
“The FBI’s face recognition office can now search databases with more than 641 million photos, including 21 state databases. In a May 2016 report, we found the FBI hadn’t fully adhered to privacy laws and policies or done enough to ensure accuracy of its face recognition capabilities. This testimony is an update on this work and our 6 recommendations, only one of which has been fully addressed. For example, while the FBI has conducted audits to oversee the use of its face recognition capabilities, it still hasn’t taken steps to determine whether state database searches are accurate enough to support law enforcement investigations…”
Hint – The US is 23rd: “Nine of the 10 best OECD countries for working women are in Europe, and two of the top three are in the Nordics. And although there is progress being made in other parts of the world to close the gender equality gap, there is still a lot of work to be done. This is according to the PwC Women in Work Index 2019, which identified a gradual improvement across the OECD for female economic empowerment…The two top spots are unchanged, with Iceland’s position as the top performer strengthened by an increase in female labour force participation and a fall in the female unemployment rate. One reason for Sweden’s consistently high performance is its progressive parental leave legislation, which actively encourages men to use their statutory time off. The rest of the top 10 is made of countries you would most likely expect to find among the best performers. All the Nordic countries are there, for example, but Norway was knocked out of the top five by Slovenia, which saw a rising number of women in work. New Zealand, the only non-European OECD country in the top 10, sits in third place – its highest ever placing in the index. Luxembourg and Poland also made significant improvements, through narrowing the gender pay gap and a large reduction in the female unemployment rate, respectively…”
The US government pushed back on a lawsuit by BuzzFeed News that seeks the Mueller report in its entirety: “The Department of Justice told a federal court judge that it cannot disclose any redacted parts of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report without harming ongoing national security investigations and other sensitive matters. BuzzFeed News and the advocacy group the Electronic Privacy Information Center are suing the government for the full report into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including the passages of the report that were blacked out when Attorney General William Barr released it to the public on April 18. (In addition, BuzzFeed News filed separate lawsuits for other documents from the special counsel’s office.)
In response to those lawsuits, a 47-page declaration, submitted by Justice Department attorney Vanessa Brinkman, sheds new light about details hidden behind the redactions. For instance, the government has refused to identify some of the Facebook groups used by Russian officials to push propaganda during the campaign. If the government released the names of the groups, the new declaration argued, it would unfairly out unsuspecting Americans who joined the groups and were tricked by Russia’s effort. Brinkman also wrote that in a handful of cases, the Justice Department had previously cited the wrong reasons for redactions in Mueller’s original report. Those passages remain blacked out, but the exemptions supporting them have changed. The government also told the court that parts of the document must remain secret to protect ongoing criminal and national security investigations and internal discussions by Mueller’s team. Those discussions offer “detailed explanations of the basis for the decisions made by the Special Counsel to pursue indictments in some instances, and not to pursue charges in others.”..
Vice – The climate change analysis was written by a former fossil fuel executive and backed by the former chief of Australia’s military. “A harrowing scenario analysis of how human civilization might collapse in coming decades due to climate change has been endorsed by a former Australian defense chief and senior royal navy commander. The analysis, published by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, a think-tank in Melbourne, Australia, describes climate change as “a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization” and sets out a plausible scenario of where business-as-usual could lead over the next 30 years…”
The paper argues that the potentially “extremely serious outcomes” of climate-related security threats are often far more probable than conventionally assumed, but almost impossible to quantify because they “fall outside the human experience of the last thousand years.” On our current trajectory, the report warns, “planetary and human systems [are] reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.”