Is Your Phone Listening to You?

By: Emma Coppola

Voice technology, for so many devices, has inevitably changed the way we communicate and manipulate our surroundings. “Talk to text” on our phone, helps us send messages to friends and family, when our hands might not be free. “Alexa”, with Amazon, can turn the lights on for us when we walk into our apartments.  Siri for iPhone, and Cortana for Android are at the ready to answer our most pressing questions, such as “What year did Brittany Spears shave her head?” and “Do bugs have feelings?” But all of this begs an even greater question, which is, “Are our devices listening to us?”

Earlier this year in July 2018, the Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) CEO Larry Page, concerned with whether these devices were listening, or “eavesdropping” on people’s conversations. While these voice technologies prove to make our lives all a bit easier at times, consumers and lawmakers were worried that smartphones were collecting data and listening to conversations when the voice activation had not been triggered.

Apple responded stating that Siri is triggered through voice assistants like “Hey Siri” and only then does the smart device begin to process voice commands. Apple also stated that the guidelines of their program require the iPhone to show some sort of visual indicator when the device is collecting data (that little purple thing on your phone when you’re talking to Siri). There is also a microphone and audio setting on the phone, where users can revoke the device’s access to “hear” commands.

Some experts in the field of computer science and technology say users have nothing to worry about. “Its categorically untrue that this is happening” stated Serge Egelman, the director of security and privacy research at Berkley’s International Computer Science Institute. On the flip side, others are concerned and troubled by these devices’ powers. “We really need a baseline privacy law in the United States that protects people, we can’t just rely on Apple’s policies or other big tech companies” stated Chris Calabrese, VP of policy at the Center of Democracy and Technology.

While the opinions may be fluctuating, the issue and concern of a reasonable expectation of privacy still stand, especially when interacting with technology. When will the way technology works cross the “privacy line”, or has it already?



Kaya Yurieff, Apple: No, your iPhone isn’t eavesdropping on you, CNN Tech (Aug. 8, 2018, 5:12 PM),

Department of Justice to Crack Down on Safe Injection Facilities

By: Joseph Mallek

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was interviewed on the local Philadelphia radio station, WHYY, where he stated that the Department of Justice would be taking, “swift and aggressive action” against cities which open Safe Injection Facilities. Major cities across the United States are planning to open Safe Injection Facilities to combat overdose deaths by providing centers where users are monitored by staffers who are equipped with the opioid antidote naloxone and oxygen. With overdose-related deaths increasing to epidemic levels in the past several years, cities are looking for a new approach to save lives. Safe Injection Facilities are one option, modeled after similar facilities in Europe and Canada, to provide a quicker response in the event of an overdose. City health officials in Philadelphia stated that in countries with these kinds of facilities, overdose deaths have dropped.

Rosenstein stated in an interview on WHYY and in a subsequent opinion column he wrote in the New York Times, that the Safe Injection Facilities are a violation of federal law. Under federal law, it is illegal to maintain a location for the purposes of facilitating illegal drug use, even though the facility staffers do not provide users with illegal drugs or assist in the use of illegal drugs, by either injection or smoking. Rosenstein argued in his opinion column that in addition to these facilities being illegal under federal law, they have a detrimental impact on the communities they sit through the flood of drug users to an area, bringing with them the peripheral criminal activity associated with illegal drug use. Officials in cities planning to open Safe Injection Facilities – in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City, Seattle and elsewhere – have pushed back against the statements of Rosenstein and the Department of Justice, creating the possibility of another standoff between cities federal authorities.


Lenny Bernstein & Katie Zezima, Cities defiant after Justice Department’s threat on ‘supervised injection sites’, The Washington Post (Sept. 4, 2018),

Bobby Allyn, DOJ’s Rosenstein: If Philly opens injection site, U.S. crackdown will be swift, WHYY (Aug. 29, 2018),

Rod J. Rosenstein, Fight Drug Abuse, Don’t Subsidize It, The New York Times (Aug. 27, 2018),

In-N-Stout Beer’s Marketing Success based on an In-N-Out Burger’s Cease and Desist Letter

By Erin Kelly

As a small brewery in California, Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery (“Seven Stills”) uses creative tactics to conjure up business. Among their marketing strategies is intentional trademark infringement. On July 12, 2018, Seven Still posted a picture to the social media platform, Instagram. The post displayed the In-N-Stout beer can design, advertising the upcoming release of their new Neapolitan milkshake stout. Seven Still was under no impression that the popular burger joint, In-N-Out, would allow the blatant trademark infringement. “We were pretty certain it wouldn’t fly,” a later Seven Stills Instagram posted explained. “If we really wanted to get away with it, we’d hide the art until release, and be sold out before anyone complained.”

In the original picture posted of the In-N-Stout beer can design, Seven Stills tagged In-N-Out’s Instagram account, just to be certain it was seen. In-N-Out was quick to respond with a cease and desist letter, requesting Seven Stills to refrain from further use of In-N-Out’s trademarks. Seven Stills seized the opportunity it hoped to create all along – major publicity. The brewery posted the cease and desist letter to Instagram, highlighting In-N-Out’s clever use of brewing puns throughout the letter. Seven Stills complied with the letter and redesigned the cans and the beer name to remove any relation from In-N-Out. Capitalizing on the attention, disguised as a symbol of their comradery, Seven Stills purchased 100 burgers from In-N-Out to give away to the first 100 customers that purchased their new stout. They also posted multiple photos of the new beer can design in front of the In-N-Out sign and food, continuing to ride on the coattails of In-N-Out. The marketing strategy was successful, as the new stout sold out quickly.

This In-N-Stout has not been the first or the last of Seven Stills’ infringement marketing ploys. The replacement design for In-N-Stout featured a silhouette of Kanye West, filled in with lyrics from one of the singer’s recent songs. Previously, Seven Stills has also produced beer cans with an uncanny resemblance to the product design of Swedish Fish and TNT Fireworks. Whether there will be any trademark misappropriation suits and how long Seven Stills can thrive on this market strategy are highly-focused.


Brendan Weber, ‘In-N-Stout Beer’ Spurs Punny Cease and Desist Letter from Burger Chain, NBC Bay Area (Aug. 15, 2018, 10:43 AM),

Luis Gomez, ‘In-N-Stout’ Beer Offends In-N-Out. Burger Chain Crafts Response Full of Beer Puns, San Diego Union-Trib. (Aug. 15, 2018, 12:25 PM),

Mark Saunders, In-N-Out Sends Pun-Laden Cease and Desist to California Brewery over ‘In-N-Stout’ Beer, 10 News – San Diego, California (Aug. 15. 2018, 6:13 PM),

Seven Stills (@sevenstills), Instagram, (last visited Aug. 31, 2018).

Seven Stills (@sevenstills), Instagram, (last visited Aug. 31, 2018).

Seven Stills (@sevenstills), Instagram, (last visited Aug. 31, 2018).

Tethered Drones

By: Cody Andrushko

Drones (also known as Unmanned Aircraft System (“UAS”)) are currently a subject of controversy within the United States and globally due to the potential safety, security, and privacy threats that people face when exposed to them. Currently, drones are operated both for recreational and commercial purposes.

Tethered drone, a hybrid field of drones, has recently seen new innovation and implementation. Companies, such as Fotokite, who recently was awarded one million dollars in the GENIUS NY business accelerator competition, has developed patented flight control processes that enable kite-like operation

Tethered drones, as opposed to free-flying drones, have potentially three significant advantages: (1) power, (2) security, and (3) control.

Having the device tethered has allowed companies to develop drones that can be continually powered for prolonged operation. As a result, tethered drone devices and services have seen recent marketing to municipal governments for implementation within police forces and fire departments. Tethered drones often offer better vantage points and larger perspectives than current tools used, which enables first responders to better assess quickly evolving and often-dangerous situations, where information saves lives. Drone cameras can be outfitted with an array of sensors, which can enable tethered drones to be tailored to particular market sectors, such as infrared cameras for fire departments.

Tethered drones have seen practical application by the secret service that is operating an undisclosed model of the tethered drone while protecting President Trump. Tethered drones will likely see larger implementation for security purposes in the future, as they are often: portable; designed for quick set-up; able to provide aerial imaging (for often larger and better perspectives); enabled to operate for a long period of time permission; and incorporated with video feed and control software that can be hard lined into the drone, which enables more secure operation.

Further, the tether enables operators to have more control over the device. While the drone still has a radius of movement, the tether enables more control when unforeseen weather or operation issues occur because it is still limited by how much tether has been provided.

However, although some people seek to avoid UAS regulations by tethering their drone and arguing that it is more akin to a balloon or kite, than a drone; the FAA does not agree. The FAA addressed this issue in a recent document [Docket No.: FAA-2015-0150], “…a small unmanned aircraft that uses powered systems for actions such as propulsion or steering is not a balloon or kite subject to part 101” and further states that “the definition of small UAS in this rule includes tethered powered small UAS.”



  1. Patrick C. Miller, Swiss company Fotokite wins $1 million business competition, UAS magazine (April 25, 2018),
  2. US Patent No: US 9446858 B2,
  3. Trevor Mogg, Tethered drones to help Secret Service provide security for president, Digital Trends (Aug. 3, 2017),
  4. Billing Code 4910-13-P, Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration, Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems,

FDA Approves First Cancer-Spotting DNA Test

By: Rachel Theodorou

On March 6 2018, the FDA approved, with warnings, the first ever breast cancer-spotting DNA test. This test, produced and distributed by California-based company 23andMe, searched for three DNA mutations that are found most commonly in people of Jewish descent. The test “analyzes DNA from a self-collected saliva sample, and the report describes if a woman is at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, and if a man is at increased risk of developing breast cancer or may be at increased risk of developing prostate cancer.”

While this may seem like a step in the right direction, the test is able to detect only three out of over 1,000 breast cancer-causing genes, none of which are the most common BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations. Additionally, consumers do not need a doctor’s prescription to obtain and use the test. The National Society of Genetic Counselors stated, “[p]eople shouldn’t take the test without talking to an expert…consumers who test positive for these mutations need to be retested in a clinical setting under the supervision of a medical professional before moving forward with any medical decisions.” The group also opined that anyone who is interested in finding out more about their individualized risk should consult with a genetic counselor.


Maggie Fox, FDA OKs 23andMe home breast cancer DNA test, with warning, NBC News (last visited Mar. 8, 2018),

The Innocence Project and DNA Exoneration

By: Kristian Walker

Steven Barnes was only 19 years old when the body of his Whitesboro High School classmate, Kimberly Simon, was found raped and murdered on the side of the road in 1985. Witness testimony revealed that a man matching Barnes’ description was seen near the scene that night, as well as a truck similar to his. However, other witnesses put Barnes at a local bowling alley during the night in question. After twelve hours of questioning a couple of days after the incident, Barnes was released. It was not until two years later that he was arrested and charged with rape, sodomy, and murder.

The conviction of Barnes was based on inconclusive evidence and three forms of unvalidated forensic science. Serology results and DNA testing were found to be inconclusive, meaning they could not definitively be matched to Barnes. The first form of forensic science used was a photographic overlay of the jeans the victim was wearing and an imprint found in Barnes’ truck. This test found only that the patterns were similar. Second, hair analysis was conducted on two hairs found in Barnes’ truck. The hairs were found to be only similar to that of the victim while dissimilar to that of Barnes. There were also no findings of hair on the victim that were similar to Barnes. Finally, tests were conducted on dirt taken from Barnes’ truck and the soil at the crime scene two years later and they were found to have similar characteristics. None of these three forms of forensic science have been validated and their use in court was strictly prejudicial rather than probative. Further, a prison informant testified that Barnes confessed to the murder to him. However, the informant was not located in a cell near Barnes’ and he could not recall when or where the conversation took place. Barnes was convicted of first degree rape, first degree sodomy and three counts of second degree murder. His sentence was 25 years to life.

Barnes’ mother was shocked to hear the guilty verdict. She had raised a well-rounded and happy son. Barnes had no criminal history or history of bad behavior; he played football, did well in school, and had a lot of friends. He was “a clean cut kid” and she knew he was innocent.

It was not until 2007 that the Innocence Project was able to reopen his case. At this point in time, almost two decades later, DNA testing and forensic science had seen many advancements. The new advanced DNA testing revealed conclusive results that the bodily fluids found on the victim did not match Barnes. Barnes was freed in 2008 and officially exonerated in 2009 at the age of 43. Throughout his two decades in prison, Barnes never gave up hope and neither did his family. His mother visited him regularly and worked tirelessly to prove his innocence. Freed right before Thanksgiving, Barnes was excited to finally celebrate a holiday with his family and have a home-cooked meal. Further, he was intrigued by cellphones, social media, and the internet. Barnes stated that he is not angered by the twenty years of lost time, rather, he is excited to start his life.

Since his wrongful conviction, Barnes sued the state and won a $3.5 million dollar settlement. He also has his own snow plowing business and works with the Oneida County youth. In his spare time, he tries to travel as much as possible. His goal is to aid in improving the justice system to ensure that wrongful convictions do not continue to happen. For this reason, he works closely with the Innocence Project in an attempt to pay it forward. To this day, the actual perpetrator has not been found.


Sylvia Barnes, Mother of Exoneree Steven Barnes, Speaks (Dec. 18, 2016),

After 20 years in prison, Marcy man walks free (Nov. 25, 2008),

Steven Barnes: Life After A Wrongful Conviction (May 26, 2016),

Group, S.B. (n.d.), Judge overturns man’s rape and murder convictions, (retrieved February 20, 2018)

Press, T.A., UPDATE: Wrongly jailed NY man formally cleared of murder (Jan. 9, 2009),

Amazon’s New Patented Wristbands Can Track Warehouse Worker’s Productivity

By Samantha Cirillo

New privacy and workplace concerns arise as Amazon gains two patents on wristband technology designed to monitor and steer warehouse worker’s everyday movements. The patent application was filed in 2016 and Amazon received both patents in early 2018. The wristband technology allows the company to trace where the workers are in relation to inventory bins and uses vibrations to steer the employees towards the correct bin. Amazon states that the purpose of the new technology would be to save time while workers are filling orders.

However, the new technology patents are raising several concerns for workers in the industry. First, employees are concerned for their privacy. The wristbands would track activity outside of the employee’s actual work,  lunches, breaks, or any worker inactivity. Another voiced concern is how the wristbands could affect workplace conditions, including setting unrealistic daily goals. One employee stated that the bands are only a placeholder until the company can replace workers with robots. Another stated that the bands are intended to allow the company to control humans like they robots.

There is no news on the creation or implementation of the patented technology, however, some say it is only a matter of time.


Ceylan Yeginsu, If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know. (And Amazon has a Patent for It.), New York Times (Feb. 1, 2018),

Alan Boyle, Amazon Wins a pair of Patents for Wireless Wristbands that Track Warehouse Workers, GeekWire (Jan. 30, 2018),

 Jessica Scladebeck, Amazon Patents Wristbands Designed to Steer Employee’s Movements, Daily News (Feb. 1, 2018),

Web Site Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities

By: Laura O’Brien

Applying for college, or graduate school, is a stressful time for any individual. For individuals with disabilities it can be an even burdensome when university websites are not accessible to them. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal regulation that requires public entities be accessible to individuals with disabilities. However, even though the ADA was updated in 2008, it fails to mention an individual’s rights to web accessibility. As a result, there have been many lawsuits regarding accessibility to company’s websites. Without regulation in the ADA, the decision on how to regulate accessibility has been up to individual judges, resulting in a wide range of decisions and leaving widespread uncertainty for plaintiffs.

In 2016, the National Association of the Deaf brought suit against Harvard on behalf of a class of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The individuals claimed they were not provided with equal access to Harvard’s website and denied equal enjoyment to the site. The class of individuals was not able to view online lectures or educational materials that had been posted. A failure to take steps to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded or denied services is a violation of Title III of the ADA. The Court determined the type of auxiliary aid Harvard provides is up to Harvard, rather than the deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Though the type of auxiliary aid is at the website owner’s discretion, there is still a requirement that the owner put in place an auxiliary aid to make the website accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

Recently, eight suits similar to the case above have been filed in federal court for Emanuel Delacruz, a blind individual. Mr. Delacruz claims that in his attempt to access eight college’s websites, none were accessible, and therefore, violated the ADA. Professor Arlene Kanter states that students increasing awareness with their right to access has recently increased, and will likely continue to increase the number of similar law suits. However, Mr. Gottlieb, a founder of the firm, Gottlieb and Associates, explained without appropriate government intervention and reform, the interest of those who need it most will not be advanced.

The results of Mr. Delacruz’s suits remain uncertain. Until the ADA is updated to include an individual’s rights to web accessibility, there are no regulations, causing a range of decisions in response to similar suits.


Nat’l Ass’n of the Deaf v. Harvard, 2016 WL 3561622, (Mass. 2016).

Vivian Wang, College Websites Must Accommodate Disabled Students, Lawsuits Say (Oct. 11, 2017),

Americans with Disabilities Act 42 U.S.C. §12182(a).

Gene Therapy to Reverse Effects of Blindness: Science Fiction or Reality?

By: Rachel Theodorou

The FDA is considering a new type of gene therapy that may be able to reverse the effects of gene mutation that causes blindness. This therapy, Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec is its scientific name), targets the RPE65 gene, which causes Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare form of blindness that begins during infancy. If Luxturna is approved for widespread use, it will become the first gene therapy for the treatment of an inherited disease in United States history.

The procedure involves injecting a non-mutated RPE65 gene directly into the eye. In order to get the healthy gene into the retinal cell, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania engineered a virus that would carry the healthy gene to the cells. The thought of injecting a virus into an eye is a frightening concept for many, but the potential downsides and side effects of Luxturna are few and far between. Similar to receiving a vaccine, injecting a virus into your body has the potential to cause harm in the form of spreading to other cells or causing an allergic reaction (also known as an immune reaction). Luxturna is not injected into the bloodstream, however, so its odds of spreading are incredibly low due to the eye’s isolated, self-contained nature.

Luxturna is the only gene therapy of its kind to render long-lasting results; other similar gene therapies have only temporarily restored eyesight. Twenty-seven out of twenty-nine patients who received the treatment as part of an experimental clinical trial showed a substantial improvement in functional vision, as demonstrated by a mobility assessment. While the FDA has yet to make a final decision, it is likely that Luxturna will be approved because of its high success rate and minimal side effects.


Susan Scutti, Experimental gene therapy for blindness considered by FDA, CNN (last visited Oct. 12, 2017),

Starbucks Settles $10 Million Trademark Dispute Over Unicorn Blended Beverages

By: Elle Nainstein

Since the 1971 opening of its first store in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, Starbucks Coffee Co. has grown to be one of the largest coffee companies in history, operating more than 24,000 retail stores in over 70 countries across the globe. Earlier this year, Starbucks released its “Unicorn Frappuccino” for a limited time between April 19th and 23rd. As of late, unicorn-themed foods have become increasingly popular across social media platforms, so it is no surprise that Starbucks felt the need to join in on the trend. However, Starbucks was not the first to create a commercially sold unicorn-themed beverage.

The End, a small cafe located in New York City, claims to have been the originators of the unicorn drink social media sensation. The End began selling its “Unicorn Latte” in December 2016, and soon after applied for a trademark in January 2017. In May, Montauk Juice Factory Inc., the parent company of The End, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Starbucks, demanding $10 million in damages and asserting that the rainbow beverage that Starbucks launched in April was a copycat of the colorful “Unicorn Latte” that the shop started selling last year.

The End’s “Unicorn Latte” was formulated in conjunction with Montauk Juice Factory. The two invested more than six months into the development of the beverage. According to the complaint, “[d]espite the distinctive name, the Unicorn Latte contained no coffee or milk and was instead a freshly-made blended beverage containing fresh ingredients such as cold-pressed ginger, lemon juice, dates, cashews, blended with additional healthy, dried ingredients such as maca root, blue-green algae, and vanilla bean.”

Within a month of its release, The End’s “Unicorn Latte” began appearing in articles published by both traditional and online media outlets, including both the New York Times and the Huffington Post. The End states that “[t]he press, coupled with advertising efforts and broad social media exposure on Facebook and Instagram (via the hashtag #unicornlatte), made the Unicorn Latte name and product famous.”

As for the Starbucks “Unicorn Frappuccino,” it lacks any indication of being healthy. The recipe calls for a crème based Frappuccino with mango syrup, colored with unicorn pink powder, blue drizzle made from white mocha sauce, classic simple syrup, and sour unicorn blue powder. The drink is then topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with a blue and pink unicorn dust.

The End believes that Starbucks released its unicorn-themed drink to overshadow their own. As per the complaint, “Starbucks’ massive and public launch of the Unicorn Frappuccino . . . meant that its product became the dominant ‘Unicorn’ beverage overnight . . . This, in turn, immediately caused consumer confusion whereby customers began referring to Starbucks’ product as a ‘Unicorn Latte,’ began assuming that [The End’s] product was a copy-cat or knockoff, and began asking employees at The End to serve them a ‘Unicorn Frappuccino.’” As a result, The End feels that consumers were misled to believe that it was copying Starbucks, ultimately causing irreparable damage to The End’s reputation and claim to fame.

Starbucks said the claims were “without merit.” Yet, on August 22, 2017, a one-page filing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District on New York revealed that the companies have agreed to settle their trademark dispute. Starbucks released a statement saying the action has been “amicably resolved on confidential terms.” A lawyer for Montauk Juice said the parties were “pleased to be able to move on.” While the court documents do not specify a settlement amount, the record shows that each party will pay their own costs and noted prejudice against the Defendant, Starbucks. As such, the agreement stipulates that The End has agreed not to sue Starbucks over any unicorn related drinks in the future.


Complaint, Montauk Juice Factory Inc., The End Brooklyn v. Starbucks Corporation d/b/a Starbucks Coffee Company, WL 1747128 (E.D.N.Y. 2017).) (No. 1:17-cv-02678).

Corinne Ramey, Starbucks and Brooklyn Cafe Settle Unicorn-Drink Lawsuit, Fox Business (Sept. 5, 2017),

Dave Simpson, Starbucks, NY Cafe Settle ‘Unicorn Frappuccino’ TM Row, Law360 (Sept. 5, 2017, 10:04 PM),

Stipulation of Voluntary Dismissal with Prejudice Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), Montauk Juice Factory Inc., The End Brooklyn v. Starbucks Corporation d/b/a Starbucks Coffee Company, No. 1:17-cv-02678 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 5, 2017).

Starbucks Company Profile, Starbucks, (last visited Oct. 17, 2017).