Shop Safe Act: New bill to hold companies like Amazon liable for selling counterfeit goods 

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By: Timothy Chien

Online shopping is a near ubiquitous aspect of American life. As online marketplaces continue to grow, counterfeit goods have increasingly become a problem for consumers. If it turns out that your expensive handbag or jewelry is a counterfeit, that’s unfortunate, but you’ll be okay in the long run. However, it’s an entirely different story if you unknowingly buy a knockoff child car seat that doesn’t meet federal safety regulations. Counterfeiters passing off their goods as legitimate is not the victimless crime that some hold it out to be; for some products, the consequences can be significant and dangerous for unassuming consumers.

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Brain-Computer Interfaces and the Right to Cognitive Liberty

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By: Deepak George

In 2016 Dennis Degray, a quadriplegic for over a decade, sent a text message from a human brain. This monumental and groundbreaking feat was accomplished by using BrainGate’s Utah array device, which contains tiny electrodes that read and write neural signals and is surgically implanted into the patient’s motor cortex. While the technology has restored neural functionality in people suffering from paralysis, limb loss, or neurodegenerative disease, the implants are invasive, deteriorate over time, and barely brush the vast potential of brain-computer interfaces. Enter Facebook and the rest of Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg described the new frontier in 2017: “Our brains produce enough data to stream 4 HD movies every second. The problem is that the best way we have to get information out into the world—speech—can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem. We’re working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale. Even a simple yes/no ‘brain click’ would help make things like augmented reality feel much more natural.”

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Ticket Refund Struggles in the Time of Pandemic

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By: Samantha Pelto

We are in the midst of a pandemic. The economy is struggling. People are suffering. On top of everything going on right now, many people in need are unable to get ticket refunds for concerts and other events that have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Over 23,000 events were cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled within the last three weeks of March alone. Because of the unprecedented number of cancellations and postponements and lack of refunds thereof, there has been mass public outcry. Ticketing vendors are increasingly pushing the blame on their clients – the event organizers. Regardless of who is to blame, it is time to consider changes to refund policies.

Event providers often include their refund policies in their terms and conditions of sale. For example, the Lightning in a Bottle music festival in California states the following in their terms and conditions:  “Tickets and vehicle passes are nonrefundable even if the Event is terminated early or canceled, or entry conditions are modified, due to harsh weather, acts of nature, governmental regulation, the failure to obtain required governmental permits, or conditions beyond Do LaB’s control.” Lightning in a Bottle was forced to cancel due to COVID-19 and announced that they would not be offering refunds in accordance with their policy. The terms are governed by California law.

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Privacy Concerns in the Time of Covid-19

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By: Emily Donohue

Since the Covid-19 virus hit the United States in late January many schools and businesses have shifted their operations online, with the video and teleconferencing platform Zoom being the popular choice for most. The platform is currently one of the most downloaded apps for both iOs and Android devices, and has seen an increase in daily meeting participants from 10 million to 200 million between December 2019 and March 2020. While call quality and user-friendly functions like the “beautification filter” and virtual backgrounds have helped Zoom edge out competitors like Skype and Google Hangouts, technology experts are raising concerns over issues with Zoom’s privacy and security practices.

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Social Distancing From Paper Money

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By Jasjit Basi

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new payment methods are replacing traditional payment methods at an increasing rate. People are not only choosing to shop online more, but even in-store shopping is changing. Various countries are making changes to the way payments are processed due to fears that the virus will transfer on paper money, credit cards, and ATMs. Additionally, growing unemployment focused attention on another possible payment method: virtual currencies. In the United States, a proposed version of the stimulus bill included a new virtual currency – a digital dollar maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank. Although this particular version of the bill with the digital dollar did not pass, it is sending positive signals regarding adoption throughout the digital currency world.

Many cryptocurrency traders are convinced that COVID-19 will result in an increased interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.  For instance, Bitcoin prices increased after the announcement of the draft stimulus bill. For many Bitcoin traders, the stimulus bill solidifies their view that Bitcoin has a place in our society today, and especially in the future. However, there are still many questions and issues that remain for Bitcoin. For one, the tax treatment is in need of further clarification before cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can replace paper money.

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