An article published on November 19, 2019 by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune has alerted Illinois lawmakers, parents, and school personnel of the widespread use of seclusion rooms for isolated timeouts. The use of these rooms, which has now been halted by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) and Governor J.B. Pritzker, has been legal in Illinois for over twenty years. The students who are most frequently placed in these rooms have an emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disability, and special education advocates are calling for an end to this practice. These rooms were introduced as a legally-sanctioned separation method to prevent students from harming themselves or others, but the investigative article found that students are often unlawfully placed in these rooms for minor behavioral infractions. The report also found that parents and school administrators did not have knowledge of the full scope of isolated time-out use for their students.
On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, the Trump Administration issued a statement regarding the recent outbreak of illnesses and deaths related to the use of electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”). Soon after, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) quickly followed suit. The Trump Administration’s statement comes after reports of 380 cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarettes in 36 states, in addition to 7 deaths. Both political parties have pressed for flavor bans, age restrictions, and other restrictions on the sale of vaping products. They have urged the FDA to move quickly and decisively to investigate and regulate e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been touted by manufacturers as a way to wean people from traditional cigarettes but have recently led to an “epidemic” of youth vaping of nicotine. E-cigarettes are popular among teens due to their availability, advertisements, e-liquid flavors, and the belief that they are safer than cigarettes. The long-term risks of vaping are currently unknown, but a growing numbers of studies show that e-cigarette vapor has severe health risks, including damaging lung tissue and blood vessels.
From Siri to Alexa, to deep learning algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) has now become commonplace in most peoples’ lives. In a business context, AI has become an indispensable tool for businesses to utilize in accomplishing their goals. Due to the complexity of the algorithms required to make quick and complex decisions, a “black box problem” has emerged for those who utilize these increasingly more elaborate forms of AI. The “black box” simply refers to the level of opacity that shrouds the AI decision-making process. While no current regulation explicitly bans or restricts the use of AI in decision making processes, many tech experts argue that the black box of AI needs to be opened in order to deconstruct not only the technically intricate decision-making capabilities of AI, but the possible compliance-related problems this type of technology may cause.
Ever since the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, concerns surrounding data privacy and protection have been growing. Both government agencies and individual users have particularly been concerned on how their data is being collected and used on social media websites such as Facebook. Germany has taken action in response to such concerns and recently took a step against Facebook’s collection of data in a decision that outlawed Facebook’s entire advertisement regime.
The Common Rule, the Federal policy protecting human subjects of biomedical and behavioral research, was published in 1991. The process to update the policy has taken place over the last several years, leading to the final rule revisions which were effective as of July 19, 2018. After January 20, 2019, institutions are now permitted to implement the entirety of the revised Common Rule. Any institution receiving funds, supervision, or review from any of the twenty Federal Departments and Agencies that have codified the Common Rule must implement this revised rule in their compliance programs.
The state of Washington is proposing new water quality regulations in an effort to encourage growth to the salmon population. The campaign against the dams in the Columbia and Snake river basins has been fought for decades and continually struggles to balance the environmental impacts with industry and energy. This regulation is the newest strategy to attempt to strike a balance between the environmental concerns and the industry concerns. Further, as more attention is given to the dwindling population of killer whales, many are calling this an emergency requiring immediate action. This action is a timely response to the recent calls to action.
In September 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced a new policy that provides for the release of a list of retailers that have received a food subject to recall. In the past, the FDA did not release such information because the agency deemed it confidential commercial information. The lack of information on the part of the FDA has been a huge detriment to the public. Prior to the new guidance, the public would only find out information about the particular food that was being recalled, not where this recalled food was available for purchase. The public was told just to stop purchasing that recalled food, whether it be romaine lettuce or beef, even if there were retailers who were selling non-contaminated products. This procedure not only hurts the public but also has a huge financial effect on those retailers who are not selling contaminated or recalled products. The FDA has effectuated a new guidance because they have found that such information is necessary to enforce a recall and to ensure public safety.
Following a public meeting in October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to share joint regulation of cell-culture “meat” technology. This decision came on the tail end of public squabble between the two regulatory bodies regarding the oversight of cell-culture, or lab-produced meat. The regulatory framework for this type of quasi-agriculture has been unclear, especially after the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology initiative that attempted to coordinate the roles of various agencies involved in emerging biotechnology. The new, definitive regulatory structure has been thoroughly praised and welcomed by top cell-culture meat companies, who have expressed open frustration with the older, confusing framework, claiming that it hindered both consumer protection and technological innovation.
In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) made an additional focus in its Work Plan for the oversight of nursing facility staffing levels. These changes were made in the light of backlash from a July 2018 news article which reported that nearly 1,400 nursing homes had fewer qualified staff on duty than they were required or failed altogether to provide reliable staffing information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”).
New data privacy regulations entail questioning both current and future technologies. Recently, Amazon has introduced a store concept that eliminates everyone’s least favorite things about shopping, long lines and small talk. Amazon Go is the grocery store of the future and these stores allow consumers to walk in, pick up the items that they need, and then walk right back out. That’s it. No long lines, no cashiers, no shopping carts. However, as great as this concept seems, there are still concerns from a data privacy standpoint as Amazon needs to collect personal data from its consumers in order to be able to lawfully execute these checkout-less stores.