* Content warning: This piece contains references to sexual assault and harassment.
In an article entitled Reality or Fiction, Nina Jane Patel shared her experience with sexual harassment in the Metaverse. She repeatedly asked fellow users to stop and tried to move away, but they followed her, continuing their verbal assault and sexual advances. In part, she writes, “they touched and groped while they took selfies. They were laughing, they were aggressive, and relentless. I froze. It was a nightmare.” As she tried to escape the situation, she could still hear them – “don’t pretend you didn’t love it, this is why you came here.” After the assault, she couldn’t report it to the police, and no suit was filed against the group of four men.
A settlement has been reached in a $100 million dollar class action lawsuit against Google impacting an estimated 1.4 million Illinois resident users. The order comes as a result of Rivera, et al. v. Google LLC , where users photographs appeared in the storage application service, known as Google Photos, without having acquired proper consent nor provided notice to its users. Google is only one of many technology giants joining trending litigation in violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). While this settlement is one of the largest in Illinois to date, one can expect there to be more class-action lawsuits on the way.
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are dominating the headlines with record-breaking profits and dismissals of antitrust lawsuits; however, that may not last long with new antitrust bills gaining traction in Congress. In fact, when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 16 – 6 to advance a major antitrust bill on January 20, 2022, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the tech companies stock prices dipped. Currently, with bipartisan support, the bill is on a path to pass the Senate.
On Friday, February 26, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge James Donato approved a 650 million-dollar settlement against tech giant Facebook for violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Chicago attorney Jay Edelson filed the class action lawsuit in 2015, alleging that Facebook had failed to obtain consent from users before using facial recognition technology to scan and digitally store uploaded photos.
Last Friday, Facebook’s Oversight Board (“the Board”) issued its latest verdict, overturning the company’s decision to remove a post that moderators alleged violated Facebook’s Violence and Incitement Community Standard. This judgment brings the Board’s total number of decisions to seven, with the Board overturning the Facebook’s own decision in five out of the six substantive rulings it has issued. The Board’s cases have covered several topics so far, including nudity and hate speech. Because Facebook’s Oversight Board does not have any modern equivalents, it is worth exploring what went into this experiment’s formation.
Twitter made the news once again yesterday after removing a tweet by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Trump’s main White House Coronavirus advisors. The tweet, which questioned the effectiveness of wearing masks in combatting the virus, was said to have violated a policy on misleading information relating to COVID-19.
This comes just days after Twitter was criticized for “limiting sharing” of a New York Post article because it exposed private information (read: personal email addresses) and contained material obtained through hacking.
Allegations that big tech companies are guilty of “censoring” information on their social media platforms are far from new. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2018 revealed that 72% of the public thought that social media platforms actively censored political views. Results from this year’s version of the same survey found roughly the same results.
Even the President has waged a war against Twitter. His criticisms of Twitter for “silencing conservative viewpoints” escalated to threats of “shutdowns” or at least heavy regulation in response to the site adding a fact-check warning to tweets that claimed that “mail-in ballots are fraudulent” without any evidence. Not long after, Trump signed an executive order attempting to punish social media companies.
As our society evolves over to a more digital world, it is important to take a step back and review what we are putting online. Recently, data breaches have become a common occurrence in our day-to-day lives. In 2016, personal information from about 25 million Uber customers and drivers in the United States. The notorious website for individuals seeking extra marital affairs, Ashley Madison, has itself fallen victim to a data breach. The hacker dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data into/onto the dark web. The data released in the Ashley Madison breach included names, passwords, addresses, and telephone numbers of users who created an account on the site. When data breaches like these happen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) steps in to protect the United States consumers by investigating the source of data breaches and prosecuting hackers.
On January 29, 2019, TechCrunch released an investigation finding that Facebook had been paying users as young as 13 for unlimited access to their data. Facebook marketed the application, not available through the iOS app store, to users aged 13-to-35 by offering to pay $20 per month plus referral fees for downloading and using a “Facebook Research” app. The app, once downloaded, provided Facebook with unrestricted access to all private data on the users iPhone including messages, photos and videos, and website usage. This was not the first app launched by Facebook to track user’s data, Apple removed a similar app called Onavo from the app store in 2018. This app is a clear violation of the 2011 consent decree Facebook signed with the Federal Trade Commission.
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.
Sei Unno Associate Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2019 Facial recognition has become mainstream, whether the laws are ready or not. Video games are using facial recognition to check the ages of their users and cars are being equipped with technology to identify drivers who are fatigued or distracted. In the U.S., states …