Tag: consumer protection

University of Washington School of Law

They Are Listening and It CAN Come Back to Haunt You

echo

Amazon Echo

By Tyler Quillin

 

How many smart devices with voice-activation capabilities surround you at any given moment? How many times have you thought about whether they are listening to everything you’re saying, just waiting for the word “Alexa” to wake them up from their idle eavesdropping? Well, some of your concerns may soon be answered by a court in Arkansas.

In late 2016, Bentonville Police Department of Arkansas obtained a search warrant for the recordings produce through Amazon’s “Echo” device pertaining to a bath tub murder. Echo is aptly described as an “always on” device. It continuously listens, waiting to hear the term “Alexa,” which “wakes” it up. Once awoken, Alexa will perform various tasks upon verbal request. She does everything from checking the weather or traffic, to answering trivia, to playing music through a Bluetooth connection.

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University of Washington School of Law

Slippery Slope for Online Service Providers with New California Appellate Court Ruling

ispsBy Tyler Quillin

The most important law governing the internet just had its 20th birthday earlier this year, the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the CDA grants online service providers immunity from liability for most illegal activities of their users. What’s more, the CDA not only allows large internet-based companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Yelp! to survive because they don’t have to individually each user’s activity, it also enables a large portion of the freedom of speech the general public enjoys online daily.

Yet, despite 20 years of precedent, the CDA has come under scrutiny. Most notably, a California appellate court issued a ruling that included an order for Yelp!, a nonparty to the case, to take down a defamatory post involving an attorney who sued a former client for posting defamatory comments and reviews on Yelp!. Along with the court order to take down the reviews, the attorney won on a default judgment to the tune of over $500,000.

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University of Washington School of Law

Is There Really An App for That?

A Review of Technology That is Intended to Help Protect Against Sexual Assault

mobile-application-rc38wc

By Carlie Bacon

The recent case about Brock Turner sexually assaulting a woman at a Stanford party has cause major outrage and has revived an ongoing public discussion about rape culture, victim blaming, and other important issues.

There’s no doubt that sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem on college campuses and around the world.  The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that in the U.S., 20 percent of women and about 1.4 percent of men will be raped at some point in their lives, with those numbers skyrocketing when factoring in other forms of sexual violence as well as LGBTQ people.  Incidences are probably much greater in number, as rape is the most under-reported crime.

Over the last few years, app developers and innovators believe they have devised ways to help people protect themselves against sexual assault.

Many of the recent designs are fashion-focused.  ROAR for Good is a company that has designed and marketed jewelry that is designed to reduce assaults.  The button-sized piece can be worn as a necklace pendant or as a pin.  When in need, the wearer presses a panic button that emits a loud alarm and sends distress texts with GPS location to “emergency contacts” (friends and family).

A company out of the Netherlands called Pearltect is designing jewelry that, when activated, produces an odiferous substance to deter sexual activity, and a tracking compound that can link the perpetrator to the crime scene.

Undercover Colors, a start-up comprised of North Carolina State University students, is in the process of bringing to market a nail polish that changes color when it comes into contact with common date rape drugs.  The wearer swirls a coated nail in a drink to determine if such a drug is present.

And let’s not forget the simpler, controversial, but nevertheless innovative, Rape-aXe, The “anti-rape condom” is a barbed, rubber device that women may wear to cut short an assault.

Critics voice concerns about, among other things, the effectiveness of such personal protection devices against the reality of rape: 92 percent of rapes are committed by people familiar to the victim.  Critics also argue against the innovations’ exclusiveness to people who can afford to pay.

In addition to wearable devices, personal safety apps like PanicGuard, MyForce, and OnWatchOnCampus offer various features.

India recently announced its plans to mandate technological crime prevention.  Beginning in 2017, all mobile phones in India must include a panic button.  These new phones will be pre-configured to send a distress signal to family members or the police when the user presses the power button three times in succession.  In 2018, all phones will need to be equipped with GPS.

Despite U.S. law enforcement’s research and implementation of numerous technological innovations in preventing and policing crime, it does not seem that much attention has been devoted to improving ways for the public to communicate with law enforcement.  For instance, text messaging from mobile phones has been available to the public since 1993.  Fast-forward over twenty years, and the Federal Communications Commission reports that “text-to-911” is only available in certain markets where call centers “have elected to accept emergency text messages from the public.”

While apps and gadgets can never solve the underlying issue of sexual violence, they may provide some help in preventing certain instances.  It will be interesting to see how much the public sector includes private sector innovations (even basic stuff like texting) into its crime prevention and policing repertoire.

Image source: GSU.EDU

 

University of Washington School of Law

Predictive Policing: The Future in Solving Crimes or the Arrival of Minority Report

By Michael Hugginsminority-report-11-3.jpg

The film Minority Report tells the story of a future society that uses technology to predict who will commit crimes. When the crime starts to occur, the Pre-Crime police department uses those predications to capture the individual before they commit the offense. Specifically, the Pre-Crime police department uses knowledge acquired from three pre-cognitive beings to predict the time and the place of the crimes. This 2002 film continues to spark intellectual and ethical curiosity in the minds of many science-fiction fans. But Minority Report is just that: science-fiction. Or is it?

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University of Washington School of Law

No Filtering Snapchat’s Third Party Woes

 

snap-ghost-yellow

Snapchat’s Ghost logo

By Mackenzie Olson

Snapchat is an app that allows users to send one another “snaps”, which are pictures that disappear after a few seconds.  Users can also add a “filter” to their pictures to alter or enhance it. However, Snapchat filters are quite unlike those of other apps. Sure, many iPhone photos instantly become more attractive—or at least more “like”-able—under the effects of the photo sharing app Instagram’s many popular filter options. (If in doubt, opt for the Valencia filter. It’s nearly foolproof.) Snapchat filters, however, can turn a user into a surreal version of him or herself.  Ever wondered what you might look like as a dog? A zombie? Or with your best friend’s (or the Starbucks lady’s) face? Snapchat offers all of these options, among others, and they are virtually risk-free.

“Virtually.”

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