February 23, 2018 - You're Invited! Symposium: The Governance & Regulation of Information Platforms

Registration is now open for our 2018 Symposium: The Governance & Regulation of Information Platforms! The all-day conference will take place on Friday, February 23rd at Georgetown Law's D.C. campus.

View the full schedule and register here.

The symposium, cohosted with the Georgetown Law Technology Review, will bring together leading academics and policy experts.  Panels will explore:

  1. the roles platforms play as both subjects and sources of governance
  2. the roles platforms play—or might play—in structuring access to information and market
  3. the role platforms play—or might play—in amplifying or mitigating false information, harassment, and political and social polarization, and how they may mitigate those problems, and
  4. questions of algorithmic accountability.

The symposium features Georgetown Law's Julie Cohen, Paul Ohm, Howard Shelanski and our visiting professor Anupam Chander, alongside FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny, the Tech Institute's Distinguished Fellow Gigi Sohn, and a diverse range of thought leaders in the field.

Register now at www.georgetowntech.org/platforms

We hope you'll join us!

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January 16, 2018 - Tech Institute to Host Summer Cohort of Girls Who Code

We're thrilled to announce that we will be hosting a cohort of high school students this summer for the national program Girls Who Code. A group of 20 local D.C. high school girls will spend their summer at the Law School, taking free daily coding lessons with Girls Who Code instructors and participating in policy and careers talks organized by us.

Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit that works to close the gender gap in technology. Its free Summer Immersion Program began in 2012 in New York City, and has now expanded to 17 U.S. cities, with 70 cohorts this summer serving over 1,400 girls. 

Our cohort is open to rising high school juniors and seniors in the D.C. area, who can apply for the program here! (Disclaimer: applications are reviewed and admissions decisions are made solely by Girls Who Code). The deadline to apply is February 16, 2018. 

We're excited to welcome our group of students and look forward to organizing talks and field trips for the group this summer. We owe a special thank you to Software.org, which is underwriting the full costs of the program for these talented young women. 

You can learn more about Girls Who Code here.

If you know a high school student who may be interested in applying, please share this great opportunity!

January 10, 2018 - Prof. Paul Ohm Launches Blog About Popular Course "Computer Programming for Lawyers"

Two years ago, Georgetown Law's Paul Ohm launched a new class focused on teaching law students how to code. The class, which is designed for students with no prior background in computer programming, introduces students to programming and computer science concepts to equip them with the skills 21st century lawyers need.

Upon completing the class, law students are able to write simple to moderately complex computer programs that can automate text-handling and data-handling tasks. Just as important, law students gain confidence in programming and computer science concepts--an essential skill for lawyers to speak fluently with today's clients, and for policymakers to better understand the technology field. 

Originally designed for ~25 students, Paul's class currently enrolls 75 law students each year and has a waitlist that is 50 students long. As Paul has noted, if he sustains this rate, as many as 15% of Georgetown Law JD grads will be competent computer programmers by the time they graduate.

Georgetown's Computer Programming for Lawyers class has been written about in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the American Bar Association Journal and other outlets. Today, Paul launched a blog that provides further context on the course. The site is intended for Georgetown insiders and outsiders to see the course materials, our approach to teaching it, and advice for schools considering their own programming-for-lawyers class.

View the new Computer Programming for Lawyers blog here.

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December 21, 2017 - Georgetown Privacy Center Issues New Report on Use of Facial Recognition Scans At Airports

Georgetown's Center on Privacy & Technology issued a new report today on the increasing use of facial recognition technology at U.S. airports. The report, "Not Ready for TakeOff: Face Scans at Airport Departure Gates" describes this technology as a "a billion dollar solution in search of a problem." Released today, the report has already prompted a bipartisan Congressional response from U.S. Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ed Markey (D-Mass).

The report notes that U.S. and foreign travelers departing from at least 8 U.S. airports—in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, Houston, and Washington D.C.—are currently having their faces scanned for comparison to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s biometric database. DHS' current plans would expand the program to every traveler departing the United States by plane, at a projected cost of $1 billion. 

The report flags several major legal and technical problems with this approach: most notably, that Congress has never clearly authorized the border collection of biometrics from American citizens using face recognition technology; and that DHS has failed to comply with a federal law requiring it to conduct a rulemaking process to implement the airport face scanning program.

The report also flags that the face scanning technology used by DHS may also make frequent mistakes. The authors write:

"According to DHS’ own data, DHS’ face recognition systems erroneously reject as many as 1 in 25 travelers using valid credentials. At this high rate, DHS’ error-prone face scanning system could cause 1,632 passengers to be wrongfully delayed or denied boarding every day at New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport alone. What’s more, DHS does not appear to have any sense of how effective its system will be at actually catching impostors—the system’s primary goal."

The report makes several recommendations—including that DHS should justify its use of this costly program; the agency should stop the program until it has conducted the required rulemaking; that DHS should prove that the technology works well without a high rate of false results; and that DHS should adopt safeguards to prevent secondary uses of facial recognition data. The report also underscores airlines' responsibility to ensure DHS follows these measures before agreeing to permit the use of such technology. View the full report and recommendations here.

Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) responded to the report immediately on Tuesday by issuing a letter to DHS questioning the use of airport facial recognition scans. 

“We are concerned that the use of the program on U.S. citizens remains facially unauthorized,” the Senators write. “We request that DHS stop the expansion of this program and provide Congress with its explicit statutory authority to use and expand a biometric exit program on U.S. citizens.” 

The New York Times provided excellent coverage of the report, and you can view the Privacy Center's Harrison Rudolph (L'16) discuss the report in a Facebook Live interview here.

As always, you can follow Georgetown Law's phenomenal privacy team on Twitter at @GeorgetownCPT.  

December 4, 2017 - New Issue of the Georgetown Law Tech Review is Live!

Congratulations to the editors and staff of the Georgetown Law Technology Review, which released the first issue of its second volume today!  

The issue contains a wealth of articles on tech law and policy-related matters, ranging from an article by Alice Armitage, Andrew K. Cordova, and Rebecca Siegel on "Design Thinking: The Answer to the Impasse Between Innovation and Regulation" to case comments on U.S. v. Ackerman, Samsung v. Apple, and Packham v. North Carolina, to legal news pieces covering developments in trade secrets law, COPPA and connected toys, and developments under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The issue also contains the GLTR's signature "tech explainers", short pieces designed to explain important technologies in an accessible way for lawyers, judges and policymakers. Recent technologies covered include hacking, multifactor authentication, VPNs, social media algorithms, and how machine learning and social media are being used in the field of mental health.

Whileformal issues are released twice a year, GLTR puts out a steady stream of tech explainers, case commentaries and legal news. For updates, follow them on Twitter at @GLTReview. 

View the downloadable version of Volume II: Issue 1 here.


November 30, 2017 - Institute Faculty Director Angela Campbell Honored at National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Washington, D.C. Impact Awards

Angela Campbell, head of Georgetown’s IPR Communications & Technology Law Clinic and one of our Faculty Directors, received the Outstanding Advocate Impact Award on Wednesday at the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s 2017 Washington, D.C. Impact Awards. The award recognized Angela’s outstanding contributions toward policies that bridge the digital divide and protect the interests of the Latino community and people of color.

In honoring Angela, the National Hispanic Media Coalition particularly noted the Georgetown Law clinic’s petition to the Federal Communications Commission to stop hate speech on broadcast airwaves. You can read further coverage of Angela’s work here.

Angela was recognized alongside Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who also received Outstanding Public Service Impact Awards.

Angela has been a member of the Georgetown Law faculty for nearly 30 years. The Communications & Technology Law Clinic, which she leads, represents non-profit organizations before the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and Federal courts to establish and enforce media policies in the public interest.

Under Angela’s supervision, law students and graduate fellows have advocated for, among other things, diversifying media ownership, protecting children’s online privacy, increasing access to media for persons with disabilities, and making broadcast stations more accountable to the public. Angela argued and won an appeal in the Third Circuit that reversed an FCC decision that would have allowed tremendous concentration within the broadcast industry.      

Angela serves on the Board of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, on the Steering Committee of the Food Marking Work Group, and as a Faculty Director to Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Center on Privacy and Technology.

Founded in 1986, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a progressive media advocacy and civil rights organization, ensuring the Latino community is fairly and consistently represented in news and entertainment and that their voices are heard over the airwaves and on the internet.

This was NHMC’s Eighth Annual Impact Awards Reception. Past honorees include Senator Robert Menendez, Senator Ed Markey, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo, Congressman José E. Serrano, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, Congressman Raúl Grijalva, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel and then-FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, and then-Congresswoman Hilda Solis. You can learn more about NHMC here.

We're tremendously proud to have Angela as one of our Faculty Directors and as a leader in the Georgetown Law community. Congratulations on the award!


Georgetown's Angela Campbell (r) with fellow NHMC award recipient Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Georgetown's Angela Campbell (r) with fellow NHMC award recipient Congresswoman Maxine Waters

November 29, 2017 - Georgetown's Laura Moy Testifies on Algorithms, Privacy & Net Neutrality Before House SubcommitteeS

The Privacy Center's Deputy Director Laura Moy testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday during a hearing co-convened by the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications & Technology and Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection. 

The hearing, titled "Algorithms: How Companies’ Decisions About Data and Content Impact Consumers", ended up covering a wide range of issues, ranging from algorithms and consumer expectations to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's recently-announced proposal to reverse the 2016 Open Internet Order that enshrines net neutrality protections.

In her written testimony, Laura explained the importance of protecting consumers' information in circumstances where consumers really have no choice whether to share the information, such as with Internet Service Providers and Credit Reporting Agencies:

"Virtually every single consumer shares information about everything they do online with an Internet service provider (ISP). Consumers share this information not because they want to, but because they must. . . Sharing information with an ISP is an unavoidable part of going online.

"An ISP can see what websites its subscribers visit and when they visit them, and can make inferences based on that information. . . In addition, even when consumers’ online activities have been purged of personal identifiers, such as name or a subscriber identifier, browsing histories can still be linked back to specific individuals. . . No other type of actor in the Internet ecosystem has access to as rich and reliable a stream of private information about individual users as ISPs. [...]

"As with Internet service providers, consumers have no choice but to share highly private information with CRAs like Equifax. The massive troves of valuable and potentially damaging information that CRAs maintain are provided by furnishers, not by consumers themselves. This is part of why consumers are so outraged by the recent Equifax breach."

She went on to describe the powerful ways in which algorithms, which often rely on such private data, can impact consumers' daily lives:

"Algorithms may be used to determine which job applicants are invited to come in for an interview, where police officers should patrol, or how long a person convicted of a crime should spend in jail. Algorithms also select much of what we read and see online. They may determine which products are presented to us in advertisements, which movies are recommended to us, which friends’ photos we see, and which news articles we read.

"Algorithmic decision-making may streamline some aspects of our lives, but algorithms can sometimes have flaws that lead to negative or unfair consequences. For example, hiring algorithms have been accused of unfairly discriminating against people with mental illness. Sentencing algorithms—intended to make sentencing fairer by diminishing the role of potentially biased human judges—may actually discriminate against Black people. Search algorithms may be more likely to surface advertisements for arrest records—regardless of whether such records exist—when presented with characteristically Black names. 

She cautioned:

"The use of consumer data to power algorithmic decision-making deserves particularly close scrutiny when the decisions to be made will affect opportunities for education, healthcare, financial products, or employment.

"Consumers want more control over their private information, and consistently are asking for it. According to a 2016 report from the Pew Research Center, “91% of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies,” and 68% believe current laws are not good enough in protecting people’s privacy online. Consumers need clear forward-looking protections that are flexible, strongly enforced, and appropriate based on context."

Laura's testimony—which we highly recommend you read in full—concludes with a concrete set of recommendations to protect consumer information in this rapidly-evolving field:

"To improve privacy and data security for consumers, the FTC—or another agency or agencies—must be given more powerful regulatory tools and stronger enforcement authority.

The law should grant an expert agency or agencies the authority to develop prospective privacy and data security rules, in consultation with the public, so that data collectors and users can know in advance what standards apply to consumers’ information. Regulations should also be flexible, allowing agencies to adjust them as technology changes, as the FTC did just a few years ago with the COPPA Rule.

Congress also should ensure that whatever agency or agencies are to be in charge of enforcing privacy and data security standards have substantial civil penalty enforcement authority. . . Regulations are effective to deter violations only if entities fear the punishment that would surely follow.

"[P]rivacy laws and regulations should be context-specific, carefully tailored based on the avoidability of the information sharing, the sensitivity of the information shared, and the expectations of consumers... When information sharing is unavoidable or less avoidable by consumers, it is important that the information be protected. [...]

Policymakers should also consider how the avoidability of any particular choice presented to a consumer may be affected or distorted by other factors that make it unavoidable as a practical matter, such as whether the choice is technically difficult for most consumers to understand or exercise. [...]

"In determining what level of protection should be afforded to information shared in a particular context, policymakers should also examine how sensitive the shared information is. . . Protection for consumers’ information should also be tailored based on consumers’ expectations for how the information will be used."

Laura's written testimony also included specific recommendations in the context of Credit Reporting Agencies, and her oral testimony went into a host of additional issues relating to the importance of net neutrality protections.

You can view her full written testimony here, and watch the video here.

As we said, it's worth the read.

Georgetown's Laura Moy testifies before the House Energy & Commerce Committee

Georgetown's Laura Moy testifies before the House Energy & Commerce Committee

November 15, 2017 - Institute Hosts Capitol Hill Event on the Sinclair-Tribune Merger and the Future of Media Ownership

On Wednesday November 15, the Tech Institute’s Distinguished Fellow Gigi Sohn moderated a panel on the proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media and a broader discussion of media ownership rules in the age of the internet. The panel came one day before the FCC voted on a controversial proposal to amend media ownership rules.

The event featured representatives from both Sinclair and Tribune, alongside Georgetown Adjunct Professor David Goodfriend, the Georgetown IPR Communications & Technology Clinic's Andy Schwartzman, Carmen Scurato of the National Hispanic Media Competition and Jim Winston, President of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) also provided remarks.

The event was broadcast on C-SPAN; a recording is available here.

You can view the Twitter conversation about the event at #SinclairTribTalk.

Thank you to our panelists!


Jerald Fritz, Executive Vice President for Strategic & Legal Affairs, ONE Media. 

David Goodfriend, The Goodfriend Group


Moderator: Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law

Rebecca Hanson, Senior Vice President / Strategy and Policy, Sinclair Broadcast Group

Eddie Lazarus, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Tribune Corporation

Andy Schwartzman, Benton Senior Counselor, Georgetown Institute for Public Representation Technology and Communications Practice Group

Carmen Scurato, Director for Policy and Legal Affairs, National Hispanic Media Coalition

Jim Winston, President, National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters

Learn more and RSVP here: www.georgetowntech.org/rsvp.

November 3, 2017 - Institute Hosts 9th Annual Georgetown-Berkeley Conference on the Role of the Courts in Patent Law & Policy

On Friday November 3rd, the Institute hosted the Ninth Annual Georgetown Law-Berkeley Law conference on the Role of the Courts in Patent Law & Policy.

The day began with a keynote addresses from Federal Circuit Judge Raymond Chen, who was confirmed to the bench in August 2013 after serving as Solicitor of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. 

A panel on "Recent Developments in Case Management" brought together  Judge Rodney Gilstrap (E.D. Tex.) and Chief Judge Leonard Stark (D.Del.) -- the two judges with the heaviest patent caseload in the country -- with Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte (N.D. Cal.), White & Case's Shamita Etienne Cummings and Berkeley Law's Peter Menell for an in-depth discussion of venue following the Supreme Court's landmark decision in TC Heartland and other case management issues.

The day continued with a panel covering recent developments at the Patent Trials and Appeals Board (PTAB), featuring the PTAB's own Chief Judge David Ruschke (Georgetown Law '97) and other experts. Hot topics included parallel litigation, amendments at the PTAB following the Federal Circuit's decision in Aqua Products, and -- of course -- the Supreme Court's upcoming reviewing of the constitutionality of PTAB proceedings in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene's Energy Group.

In a lunchtime keynote address, the Interim Director of the U.S. PTO Joe Matal shared his views on potential areas for legislative activity in patent policy, drawing on his own experiences as a key staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the drafting of the America Invents Act. 

His address was followed by a flashtalk on patent litigation trends presented by data analytics expert Emily Hostage of RPX Corporation. The day's third panel featured leading practitioners Morgan Chu, Matt Powers, Celine Crowson, and Ken Korea and Professor Bernard Chao analyzing remedies and damages law. The day concluded with a discussion of the significant patent decisions issued by the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit in the past twelve months, featuring Georgetown's Jay Thomas, Professors Margo Bagley, Jay Sherkow, and Elizabeth Winston, and retired judge Rod McKelvie (D. Del.).

A video of the event is available here

You can view the full program here. To receive notifications of future conferences, please join our mailing list here. Many thanks to all who came!

October 25, 2017 - Supreme Court Experts Speak on Oil States Case at Event with Giles S. Rich Inn of Court

On Wednesday October 25, the Institute welcomed celebrated Supreme Court litigators Jeffrey Lamken, Deanna Maynard and Irv Gornstein and patent experts Jay Thomas, John Thorne and Rakesh Kilaru for a panel on the most-watched patent case of the year, Oil States Energy Services v. Greene's Energy Group LLC. The case, scheduled for Supreme Court argument in November, challenges the constitutionality of the inter partes review process created by the America Invents Act of 2011.

The event was a special session of the Giles S. Rich Inn of Court, a professional organization focused on fostering professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills in the area of intellectual property. It provided a wonderful opportunity for students to engage with leaders in the field and practitioners of all professional levels during a lively and important debate. You can learn more about the Giles S. Rich Inn of Court here.

Supreme Court and patent law experts speak at the GSR Inn of Court's panel on Oil States Energy Services v. Greene's Energy Group.

Supreme Court and patent law experts speak at the GSR Inn of Court's panel on Oil States Energy Services v. Greene's Energy Group.

October 18, 2017 - Public Interest Leaders Speak at Workshop on Tech Careers in the Public Interest

On Wednesday October 18, the Institute welcomed an all-star panel of experts for a student workshop on tech careers in public interest technology law. Practitioners from groups as diverse as Public Knowledge and the Electronic Privacy Information Center to Consumer Reports and Upturn shared tips on building experience in law school, finding an issue you're passionate about, and navigating a career that moves between non-profits, government service, and the private sector.

Following the presentation, speakers offered students one-on-one advice on their resumes and career plans. The groups participating included: Public Knowledge, Upturn, the Future of Privacy Forum, the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the Center for Democracy & Technology, ACLU, Free Press, Consumer Reports, the Electronic Privacy Information Center as well as the Georgetown Tech Institute, Georgetown Center on Privacy & Technology, and Communications & Technology Clinic.

The Privacy Center's Deputy Director Laura Moy prepared a great handout for the event listing 2018 internships in tech-policy focused public interest roles. For a copy of the list, email TechInstitute@law.georgetown.edu.


Panelists speak at a workshop on Tech Careers in the Public Interest

Panelists speak at a workshop on Tech Careers in the Public Interest

October 10, 2017 - Georgetown Law Announces New Project-Based Class on Technology in the Criminal Justice System

By Aaron Fluitt, Computer Science & Privacy Fellow, Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law

This Fall, Georgetown Law welcomes the addition of adjunct Professors Jason Tashea and Keith Porcaro, who will lead a new project-based practicum on Criminal Justice Technology, Policy and Law. The practicum explores how technology is changing the nation’s criminal justice systems through two critical lenses: how well technology-augmented tools and approaches further their stated policy aims, and how technology changes power relationships between government and citizens.

We spoke with Professors Tashea and Porcaro to discuss their goals for the course and the projects students will be working on this semester. Responses below have been edited for clarity and length.

This practicum is a brand new offering at Georgetown Law. What are some of the main topics you will cover, and what do you hope students take away from the course?  

JT: We split the course thematically into two tracks: one track will cover the controversies around the use of technology and data in the criminal justice system, and the other will focus on  practical approaches to designing and building legal and policy tools. The first track will look at the impact of new technologies on individuals’ constitutional rights, and will explore civic technologies which are being used to improve access to and understanding of the criminal justice system.

KP: The second track gets students thinking about the implementation of digital tools in a structured way. We’ve invited several guest speakers, and students will work in groups throughout the semester to apply these concepts to current challenges that lawyers, nonprofit organizations, and governments are facing across the country at this moment.

 What projects will the students work on?

KP: We have two partner organizations this year. One is from Harris County, Texas, where judges assign public criminal defense cases to attorneys using the "Wheel" System, a rotating list of pre-approved lawyers. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) have tasked our students with investigating whether it is possible that judges may be appointing attorneys who are more likely to donate to their re-election campaigns, or attorneys who tend to plea out cases faster and more frequently. This project isn’t a hunt to identify systemic corruption, but it is an exploration of a unique structural element of one system’s approach to criminal justice. And it’s an opportunity for students to move beyond reaching a conclusion they may find objectionable, to understanding how an organization with limited resources might choose to deploy those resources in order to affect a change in policy.

JT: An underlying theme of the course is learning to approach legal and policy issues as part of an ecosystem—involving both development of tools and data but also concerning how people look at the system itself. Law school is very good at teaching students to think about discrete legal topics and issues. We hope to pull students away from that magnifying glass and, through these projects, acknowledge and understand the larger ecosystem.

The other project comes to us from the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP). Last year Maryland’s legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA). It’s one of those once-in-a-generation reform packages, which will entail substantially reallocating money and resources traditionally meant for incarceration and punishment towards rehabilitation and treatment. The GOCCP is excited to be able to use a model developed by our students to better understand how the JRA will affect their systems and budgets so that when they go to Annapolis to lobby, they will have an informed sense of what they ought to be lobbying for.

"Law school is very good at teaching students to think about discrete legal topics and issues. We hope to pull students away from that magnifying glass and, through these projects, acknowledge and understand the larger ecosystem."

How are you using guest speakers to contribute to students’ appreciation of the legal and policy issues related to new technologies?

JT: Matthew Stubenberg, for instance, has done a lot of interesting work scraping the Maryland court database system. He’s created an easily navigable database that enables non-profits and other organizations like The Baltimore Sun to better utilize court data, for example to unearth systemic issues or to develop tools that improve access to the justice system. One thing we are trying to reinforce through our guest speakers is that these projects are never done; they only die. To keep these projects alive means not only retaining the people power that fuels them, but also an unending search for funding mechanisms necessary to maintain them.

How do you see technology impacting power dynamics in our criminal justice systems and elsewhere?

KP: Technology is usually a good amplifier for existing dynamics, so in a criminal justice system designed around the provision of procedural checks against the power of the State, it is fair to ask whether that new element bolsters or erodes those established checks; whether it exacerbates or alleviates perceived tensions in pre-existing procedures.

For example, the addition of something as seemingly innocuous as a text reminder for a defendant to appear in court. The power dynamics at issue may be entirely dependent on who sends the message—if it is the defendant’s attorney it is probably a privileged communication, but if the court sends the reminder, it would not be privileged. And an enterprising prosecutor could check the cellphone records and see when the defendant received the message, and also whether they used their phone afterward. They could use that as another stick, which could further exacerbate the power dynamic between defendants and the courts.

Are there any technological developments you’re paying particular attention to right now, or that you think people should know more about?

JT: In my opinion, attention should be paid less to any given technology—everyone always wants to talk about an app or a software program, but that is the wrong thing to be thinking about. Ultimately the questions are about data quality, transparency, and security. For instance, the need for transparency around the algorithms that are influencing bail and sentencing decisions. Technologies come and go, but these underlying questions will remain perennial regardless of whether we are talking about a regression analysis algorithm or a neural network that comes a few years down the road.

"Technology is usually a good amplifier for existing dynamics, so in a criminal justice system designed around the provision of procedural checks against the power of the State, it is fair to ask whether that new element bolsters or erodes those established checks; whether it exacerbates or alleviates perceived tensions in pre-existing procedures."

Tell us about your backgrounds and how you became interested in technology and the law.

JT:  The real jumping-off point for me happened while I was working in Kosovo. Even though my work was focused on juvenile justice, the interesting thing to me was the country's focus on being recognized by the international community. The people of Kosovo found a lot of momentum getting companies like Amazon to make sure that Kosovo was an option in the country pull-down menu, so they didn’t have to say they were either part of Serbia or Albania. Kosovo was also the first time I encountered a civic tech ecosystem where people were trying to essentially code their way out of their government’s failures, and their government’s inability to deliver services. Those two elements to me were absolutely fascinating—they were the impetus for everything I’ve done since.

KP: I’m a lawyer by training, but I found my way into several tech jobs by accident in college. For the first few years out of law school, I was working in-house for tech startups and helping them deal mostly with operational issues. Right now, one aspect of my work at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is figuring out how to explain complex systems to ordinary people, finding ways to incorporate simple and straightforward interfaces. Fuller understanding of these systems could really change people’s perceptions of and engagement with those systems. We are supposed to be participants in determining the laws we have and how people should behave, but meaningful participation is to an extent predicated upon being able to understand how the system works, holistically. And that is one of the goals of our practicum.

Professors Keith Porcaro (r) and Jason Tashea (l) teach Georgetown's new class on the use of technology in the criminal justice system

Professors Keith Porcaro (r) and Jason Tashea (l) teach Georgetown's new class on the use of technology in the criminal justice system

October 6, 2017 - Georgetown’s IPR Communications & Technology Clinic Helps Prompt Congressional Inquiry into “Aristotle” Smart Baby Monitor

Georgetown’s IPR Communications & Technology Clinic had a significant accomplishment last week, when Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (TX-06) sent an oversight letter to toy company Mattel raising privacy concerns about its “Aristotle” smart baby monitor, which was scheduled to hit stores in 2018. Subsequent to receiving the letter, Mattel announced that it will no longer be taking the Aristotle device to market.

“Aristotle” is a Wi-Fi enabled talking device with audio and visual monitoring that was marketed for use in a child’s bedroom from birth until adolescence. Mattel publicized this AI-driven connected home platform as being designed to “comfort, entertain, teach and assist during each development stage,” by, for example, tracking sleep and feeding patterns when the child is an infant and answering user questions as the child grows older.

On behalf of IPR Clinic clients Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Center for Digital Democracy, clinic student Jack O’Gorman (L’17) conducted initial research into the Aristotle device and potential privacy concerns, sharing that information with the Congressmen’s offices. His research analyzed the device’s functionality and reviewed Mattel’s privacy policies regarding the collection and use of information, identifying a number of areas where information was unavailable about the device or its functionality.

In the letter, the Congressmen raised privacy concerns and posed a series of questions to Mattel about the device. Among other requests, the Congressmen sought information as to how the toy company would obtain parental consent, how information would be collected, stored and safeguarded, the technologies the device would utilize for monitoring, and how the device would comply with existing laws. A coalition of non-profit groups organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Story of Stuff Project also organized a petition urging Mattel not to release the product.

This week, Mattel announced that it will not move forward with its plans to release the device for sale. In a statement reported in The Washington Post, Mattel said the product did not “fully align with Mattel’s new technology strategy.” The move was welcomed by Georgetown’s IPR clinic and other privacy advocates. “We commend Mattel for putting children’s wellbeing first and listening to the concerns of child development experts and thousands of parents who urged them not to release this device,” said Josh Golin, executive director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “This is a tremendous victory for everyone who believes children still have a right to privacy and that robots can never replace loving humans as caregivers.”

Georgetown’s IPR Communications & Technology Clinic is a full-time clinic in which Georgetown Law students represent non-profit organizational clients to ensure that communications technologies are used in ways that serve the interests of the public. You can learn more about the clinic here.


Photo courtesy Flickr user DaveSans

Photo courtesy Flickr user DaveSans

September 29, 2017 - Institute Fellow Gigi Sohn Honored at Public Knowledge's 2017 IP3 Awards

The Tech Institute's Distinguished Fellow Gigi Sohn was honored last night at Public Knowledge's annual IP3 Awards for her significant contributions in internet policy. Gigi was honored alongside Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) and The Honorable Michelle Lee, who served as Head of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office from 2013-2017. 

Gigi has worked for nearly 30 years as a public interest advocate, promoting competition and innovation policies to make broadband internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open and protective of user privacy. She most recently served as Counselor the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, whom she advised on a range of issues relating to the internet, telecommunications and media.

At the FCC, Gigi was described as "the conscience of the Chairman's office" for her work on behalf of American consumers and competition. She continues that work now, as one of the leading voices in the current policy debate over the FCC's proposed rulemaking to roll back net neutrality protections. She recently hosted a discussion on "The Battle to Save Net Neutrality" with Mr. Wheeler, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Cal.), television producers, telecommunications experts and the Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice. You can view the video here.

Gigi's work at the Tech Institute is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation, which has long worked to promote equal access to and fair regulation of the Internet to ensure transparency, privacy, access to knowledge, and free expression for all people. Gigi is also a fellow of the Open Society Foundations and a Mozilla Fellow.

Public Knowledge is a non-profit public interest group that promotes freedom of expression, an open internet, and access to affordable communications tools and creative works. This was the Fourteenth Annual IP3 Awards Ceremony. You can learn more about the organization here.

We're tremendously proud to have Gigi as part of the Georgetown Law community. Congratulations on the award!


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September 29, 2017 - Friday Tech Speaker Series hosts Former NHTSA Administrators for discussion on Self-Driving Cars

Our regular Tech Speaker Series kicked off Friday with a discussion on self-driving cars featuring two leading experts in the field: Joan Claybrook, former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (1977-1981) and President of Public Citizen (1982-2008), and David Strickland, former Administrator of NHTSA (2010-2013) and now counsel to the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets.

In a dynamic debate, the speakers discussed the Trump Administration's recent revision of NHTSA's guidance for the self-driving vehicle industry, and legislation currently pending before Congress that would significantly increase the number of test vehicles permitted on the road.

The conversation ranged from the size and scope of the exemption for test vehicles, to considerations of privacy, ethical questions, and security, to NHTSA's capacity for regulating the fast developments in this industry, and the appropriateness of preempting states from regulating in this space.

The meeting was the first in a series of regular events hosted by the Tech Institute on campus. If you want to learn about future speakers in this series and other Tech Institute events, join our mailing list here.

Institute Director Alex Givens (L) moderates a discussion with The Hon. David Strickland (C) and The Hon. Joan Claybrook (R), two former Administrators of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Institute Director Alex Givens (L) moderates a discussion with The Hon. David Strickland (C) and The Hon. Joan Claybrook (R), two former Administrators of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

September 8, 2017 - Prof. Julie Cohen Briefs Congressional Staff on Section 230

Tech Institute Faculty Director Julie Cohen spoke to Capitol Hill staff on Friday as part of a panel on the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a longstanding provision that limits the liability of internet providers for content posted by their users.  

The panel, "Carving Out Exceptions to Section 230: How Will It Affect the Internet?", comes at a time when Congress is considering new legislation to address online trafficking. The event was organized by the Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus, an organization comprised of public interest groups, trade associations, non-profits, and corporations that convenes though leaders to help educate Congressional staff. 

A recording of the event is available here

Professor Julie Cohen briefs Congressional staff on CDA Section 230

Professor Julie Cohen briefs Congressional staff on CDA Section 230

September 7, 2017 - Communications & Technology Clinic Announces New Job Opening for STAFF ATTORNEY / Clinical Teaching Fellow

Georgetown's IPR Communications and Technology Clinic is now accepting applications for a two-year position as a clinical teaching fellow/staff attorney starting in August 2018.  The Fellow will represent non-profit organizations in high profile, cutting-edge cases before the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and federal appellate courts.  The Fellow will receive an LL.M. degree in Advocacy at the conclusion of the Fellowship.  

You can read more about the great work of the Clinic here - and the full job posting is here. Applications will be accepted and considered on a rolling basis through December 15, 2017.  


September 5, 2017 - Georgetown Welcomes First Class of Tech Law & Policy Scholars; Visit Federal Circuit

This semester, the Law School welcomes its first class of Technology Law & Policy Scholars - a group of 1L students who were competitively selected to focus on technology law and policy during their time at Georgetown Law.

Our inaugural class of sixteen students have diverse backgrounds and areas of interest, from privacy, to cybersecurity, intellectual property, and telecommunications law. Half of the class bring advanced degrees and prior careers in technology-related fields; others come with a deep interest in the intersection of technology and social justice. 

The Tech Law Scholars' 1L Seminar introduces them to key participants in the technology policy ecosystem. On Friday September 9, the Scholars watched oral arguments at the Federal Circuit and met for a private discussion with Senior Judge Richard Linn and his clerk. Other classes will take students to Congress, the Copyright Office, the FCC, FTC and U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, as well as non-profit organizations and companies that advocate on tech policy issues.

You can learn more about the Tech Law & Policy Scholars Program here. Applications will open in Spring 2018 for students who have been admitted to the Georgetown Law Class of 2021. 

The ceremonial courtroom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where Tech Law Scholars met with Judge Richard Linn (L'69) this month. 

The ceremonial courtroom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where Tech Law Scholars met with Judge Richard Linn (L'69) this month. 

August 15 & 16, 2017 - Tech Institute Hosts Two-Day Technology Program For Congressional Staff

This week, Congressional staffers from the House and Senate came to Georgetown Law for Tech Foundations for Congressional Staff, an immersive two-day program for Congressional staff to learn about new and emerging technologies.

Over two days, staffers attended sessions on subjects such as The Structure of the Internet, the Technology of Privacy, the Future of Machine Learning and AI, and Blockchain Technology. Alexandra Givens, Executive Director of the Tech Institute, framed the program as a way for staffers to "step back from immediate legislative debates and learn about how key technologies actually work -- laying a foundation for informed policy-making." 

The program featured an array of subject matter experts, from Georgetown Law's own Paul Ohm, to former FCC Chief Technology Officer and current CMU professor Doug Sicker, to Carolyn Nguyen, director of technology policy at Microsoft, and Ellen Hwang, leader of Philadelphia's Smart Cities initiative. The event drew staffers from the House and Senate judiciary committees, commerce committees, government affairs and oversight committees, finance committees, leadership offices, and the Congressional Research Service.

Institute Director Alexandra Givens (r) interviews Vint Cerf

Institute Director Alexandra Givens (r) interviews Vint Cerf

A cocktail reception on the first night featured tech demos from a number of local and D.C.-based companies. Microsoft demoed its Translate.it realtime speech translation tool and Seeing AI, artificial intelligence that identifies objects, describes people, and reads text when an individual holds up the camera on their smartphone. D.C.-based company Quorum profiled its legislative strategy platform that analyzes Congressional information, and the owner of Open Data Nation was on hand to answer questions about how her company advises clients to leverage open data tools. Guests also had the opportunity to try several virtual reality headsets: Facebook's Oculus, Playstation VR, HDC Vibe and the Microsoft HoloLens.

The two-day program closed with a fireside chat with the celebrated technologist Vint Cerf, widely known as one of the founding fathers of the internet. Dr. Cerf spoke about the risk of a "digital dark age" as new software developments make older computer files unreadable -- an immediate problem facing federal agencies, courts, Congress, and the public at large. He also spoke about opportunities to spread innovation to areas around the United States, stressing the importance of investing in infrastructure and accessible, affordable internet service. Dr. Cerf stayed long after the reception ended to answer individual questions.

Tech Foundations was generously supported by BSA|The Software Alliance, Software.org, the Information Technology Industry Council and CompTIA.

The full program and list of speakers for Tech Foundations is here. 

The Tech Institute intends to hold Tech Foundations again in future. To suggest topics or join the mailing list for future programs, contact us as TechInstitute@law.georgetown.edu.  

August 12, 2017 - Tech Institute Hosts Digital Security Training for Advocates with ACLU-DC & DC Legal Hackers

On August 12, more than 70 lawyers and advocates assembled at Georgetown Law for a training titled, "Protecting Yourself and Your Clients: Data Security Information You Need to Know."  

The event, co-hosted by the Tech Institute, ACLU-DC, and the civic tech organization DC Legal Hackers, featured short presentations on ways for lawyers and individuals to protect their digital information. Topics included password security, secure hosting and transfer of files, protecting your devices, and secure messaging by voice, video and text.

Speakers included Shauna Dillavou, principal at Security Positive; Eric Mill, a privacy and security expert who previously worked at the Sunlight Foundation; Matt Mitchell, founder of CryptoHarlem and a recent Mozilla Ford Open Web Fellow at Color of Change; and Alexandra Ulsh, information security engineer at Mapbox.

Following the talks, audience members participated in hands-on workshops staffed by volunteers from DC Legal Hackers, who helped guests implement the recommended security and privacy steps on their devices. 

Curious about protecting your own devices or hosting your own digital security training? Contact TechInstitute@law.georgetown.edu for copies of our training materials, or start with this cluster of helpful materials here.  Thanks to our volunteers & trainers for a great and meaningful event.

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