Tech Roundup - June 4, 2021

Fri, 06/04/2021

Welcome to ‘Tech Roundup,’ where we highlight some of the most significant/thought-provoking news items from the world of tech, especially at the nexus of law and technology. We are particularly interested in foregrounding tech news that is happening in Nebraska, and our region more broadly. If you have a news item you would like to see in the Roundup, please email


Project probes how schools’ external, internal controls impact student learning opportunities

Nebraska Today

  • Taeyeon Kim, Assistant Professor of educational administration, is exploring the effects of accountability policies on students’ learning opportunities. Her research focuses on whether external controls over school-level decisions promote equitable learning and how a school’s internal controls can mediate the impact of external controls.
  • “I really wanted to pursue mapping the picture of accountability at the national level in the U.S. to see how external controls improve something at the school level,” Kim said. “Equity is one of the most important goals we should think about in our practice and policy. That’s the recent policy shift, and it has been under-explored in existing research on accountability.”


New technique acts as accelerator, brake for microscopic droplets

Nebraska Today

  • By stretching and relaxing their specially designed films, Nebraska chemists Stephen Morin and Ali Mazaltarim have demonstrated unprecedented control over the movement of liquid droplets on flat surfaces.
  • That control could make the technique useful in self-cleaning materials, water harvesting and other applications.


Study links classroom ventilation, air quality with academic performance

Pocket Science from Nebraska Today

  • Even before the coronavirus pandemic, research was establishing suggestive links between academic performance and a classroom’s air quality, possibly due to the latter affecting students’ concentration and illness-related absences.
  • The study revealed links between the type of ventilation system installed at a school and its students’ performance on year-end math and reading tests.
  • Even when controlling for other variables, students in classrooms with a single-zone unit ventilator — which is attached to an external wall and draws in outdoor air directly from the device — generally performed worse in math and reading when compared to schools with centralized systems that serve multiple classrooms.


A New Spin On A Classic Video Game Gives Native Americans Better Representation


  • The company Gameloft tackled the redesign of Oregon Trail for Apple Arcade just in time for the increase in worldwide play because of the coronavirus pandemic. The company brought in Indigenous historians, including University of Nebraska historian Margaret Huettl, who has Lac Courte Oreilles tribal ancestors.
  • She researched old photos and drawings for accurate depictions of different tribes' clothing and style.


Student Team Preps For NASA CubeSat Program With Balloon Launch

CBS Los Angeles

  • A team of middle and high school students in Nebraska are working with NASA on a cube satellite project designed to improve the generation of electricity from sunlight.
  • The full news report about the “Big Red Satellite Team” is available at the link above.


UNL Psychological Consultation Center embraces, finds success in telehealth

Nebraska Today

  • Like most mental health service providers, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Psychological Consultation Center made the switch to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and found success for both students and clients.
  • “It was helpful that we already had telehealth, but we had to train 22 students on best practices and protocols, and new ways to communicate with clients since we couldn’t be face to face,” said Corrie Davies, director of the clinic. “We also had to pivot on how we could provide supervision remotely, record keeping — those kinds of things we didn’t previously have protocols for, and so we had to set up work-from-home procedures very quickly.”


Local Startup Spotlight


  • According to the company, “RealmFive offers the most installer-focused, easy-to-administer, and cost-effective wireless sensor Connectivity Platform in agriculture.
  • “RealmFive’s platform combines robust, long-range, wireless hardware designed for difficult in-field environments with intuitive software for enabling its customers access to their data.”


Nebraska Tech Incubators

The Combine

  • From initial goal setting and idea assessment to preparation for a capital raise, The Combine Program is designed to assist entrepreneurs on an individual basis.
  • With a focus on food and ag techThe Combine supports undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, and the general statewide community.



Not-so-remote areas with internet ‘black holes’ renew fight for broadband


  • The Biden administration is proposing to spend $100 billion over the next eight years to finally connect every American household to high-speed internet. But solving the problem isn’t just a matter of cutting a big check to fund the installation of fiber pipelines. The nation, simply put, doesn’t even know where its internet black holes are found.
  • Many people assume that America’s broadband problem is focused on far-flung areas, like remote stretches of Western deserts or the deep recesses of forests. But in fact, the problem is also acute in areas like Adams County, which has medium-sized cities like Gettysburg which are not very far from suburbs of cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore. The market just hasn’t generated the right incentives for internet providers to serve all potential customers in areas like Adams.


Facebook to end special treatment for politicians after Trump ban

The Verge

  • Facebook plans to end its controversial policy that mostly shields politicians from the content moderation rules that apply to other users, a sharp reversal that could have global ramifications for how elected officials use the social network.
  • The change, which Facebook is set to announce as soon as Friday, comes after the Oversight Board — an independent group funded by Facebook to review its thorniest content rulings — affirmed its decision to suspend former President Donald Trump but critiqued the special treatment it gives politicians, stating that the “same rules should apply to all users.”


A growing number of governments hope to clone America’s DARPA

The Economist

  • Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine sits alongside weather satellites, gps, drones, stealth technology, voice interfaces, the personal computer and the internet on the list of innovations for which DARPA can claim at least partial credit.
  • Germany has recently established two such agencies: one civilian (the Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation, or sprin-d) and another military (the Cybersecurity Innovation Agency). Japan’s interpretation is called Moonshot r&d. In Britain a bill for an Advanced Research and Invention Agency—often referred to as uk arpa—is making its way through Parliament.


Ransomware Targeted by Justice Department as Attacks Flourish

Bloomberg Law

  • The Justice Department is vowing to systematically track and prosecute ransomware attacks, making the effort to counter the increasingly dangerous and disruptive online assaults on critical services a top priority.
  • The department will now require federal prosecutors across the country to notify senior officials of any significant new developments in ransomware investigations or when they learn of a new digital extortion attack, according to a directive issued Thursday by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.


Facebook Data Trove Probed as Europe Turns Screw on Big Tech

Bloomberg Law

  • Facebook Inc. is facing its first in-depth probe by European regulators, the latest in a series of efforts to crack down on big tech market dominance across the continent.
  • The European Commission said it will investigate whether Facebook misuses a trove of data gathered from advertisers to compete against them in classified ads. It will also check if the company unfairly ties its Marketplace small ad service to the social network.


Biden Expands Trump-Era Ban on Investment in Chinese Firms Linked to Military

New York Times

  • President Biden issued a new executive order on Thursday barring Americans from investing in Chinese firms that are linked to the country’s military or that sell surveillance technology used to repress dissent or religious minorities, both inside and outside China.
  • The new order expands on an earlier, Trump-era blacklist and brings to 59 the total number of Chinese firms banned from U.S. investment. The move intensifies a commercial and ideological battle between Beijing and Washington, one that Mr. Biden has termed the struggle between “autocracy and democracy.”


Composing by computer

The Economist

  • Give a piece of commercial software such as Magenta, developed by Google, the first few notes of a song, and it will make something merrily tuneful out of them.
  • Dr. Gerhard Widmer of Johannes Kepler University thinks he can do better. He wants to use artificial intelligence to explore how toying with a listener’s expectations affects the perception of music, and then to employ that knowledge to create software which can produce something more akin to Beethoven than “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.


Virtual Reality Therapy Plunges Patients Back Into Trauma. Here Is Why Some Swear by It.

New York Times

  • Many V.R. therapies build on a sometimes-divisive therapeutic technique called prolonged exposure, developed by Edna Foa, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
  • Prolonged exposure is a cognitive intervention therapy; patients first describe a traumatic event to a therapist, in detail and in the present tense, and then confront triggers of the traumatic event in the real world.


US delays tariffs in 'tech tax' row


  • The US has announced and immediately suspended tariffs on about $2bn (£1.4bn) of imports in retaliation for taxes on its tech firms.
  • It comes after a year-long US investigation into digital services taxes put in place by the six countries, which tax tech firms on their revenues, rather than profits.


Is Your Smartphone Making You Less Smart? Distraction Addiction Is Real

Bloomberg Law

  • Attorneys and law students are multi-taskers, but constantly checking a smartphone can lead to distraction addiction, says Suffolk University Law School professor Shailini Jandial George. She offers tips on how to be more productive and focused, which can lead to greater happiness.


Nebraska Governance and Technology Center

Tech Refactored Ep. 22 - NASA's Artemis Accords, Presented by NGTC Student Fellows


What We Are Reading

Gus Hurwitz, Director of the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, highlighted a Supreme Court decision issued Thursday concerning the Computer Fraud and Abuses Act of 1986 (CFAA):

Van Buren v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

  • As Christiana Wayne, writing for Lawfare, explained: “Ruling against the government, the justices held 6-3 that an individual who uses an authorized computer to access permissible areas of the computer—such as files, folders and databases—does not violate the “exceeds authorized access” clause of the CFAA, even if the individual uses the accessed information for a prohibited purpose.”

Hurwitz offered this perspective:

"It may not be surprising, but I've been reading the opinion in the Van Buren case, which the Supreme Court released this week. I don't think the opinion itself is all that surprising, but it's the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the meaning of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It answers the important question of whether a user accesses materials on a computer system that they are not supposed to access even though they are technically permitted to access them has committed a crime. The Supreme Court says no -- the Act only criminalizes exceeding the access authorized by technical measures. Importantly, this case sets up future cases for review that deal with harder questions about how to deal with technical measures that don't work as intended.”

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