Tech Roundup - May 14, 2021

Fri, 05/14/2021

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



Agtech startup Corral Technologies wins Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship’s New Venture Competition

Silicon Prairie News

  • Corral Technologies, founded by University of Nebraska mechanical engineering major Jack Keatingwon first prize in the New Venture Competition, hosted by UNL’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
  • The award comes with a $25,000 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development to assist his new company in developing models to accurately test its products.
  • Corral Technologies uses virtual fencing technology to allow ranchers to rotate their cattle’s grazing patterns from their cell phonecomputer or tablet. Keating’s goal is to utilize GPS to connect satellites with collars worn by the cattle, which will then show up on a map inside an app for the rancher and help them move their cattle remotely.



Study makes case for importance of ‘gamer’ identity

Pocket Science, a series from Nebraska Today

  • To examine the potential links between gamer self-identification and health, Kort-Butler consulted survey data from 877 students at a public university.
  • When controlling for demographics, Kort-Butler found that the self-rated physical health of gamers was slightly lower than non-players’, rating a 3.62 vs. 3.83 on a 1-to-5 scale. But gamers were also less likely to binge-drink and no more prone to aggressive behavior, despite rating their game choices as slightly more violent.


Nebraska Tech Collaborative: A Partner for Education

Nebraska Tech Collaborative

  • The Nebraska Tech Collaborative (NTC), an Aksarben Workforce Initiative and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization was founded in 2018 to “grow the technology talent ecosystem to advance long-term economic prosperity for all Nebraska.”
  • The NTC’s mission is to build a world-class tech talent ecosystem right here in Nebraska.
  • (The NTC maintains) seven committees, each tackling a unique aspect of the NTC mission and addressing specific challenges in developing a predictable pipeline of talent More information can be found at the above link.



Local Startup Spotlight


  • Lincoln-based Sprious LLC “builds technology products for markets that are right on the edge of mainstream consciousness.”
  • Sprius utilizes “an extensive IT infrastructure to assist businesses with data collection and data storage.”



Amazon Wins Appeal Over $300 Million EU Tax Bill

Wall Street Journal

  • Amazon struck a new blow to European Union efforts to wring more tax from big tech companies when the bloc’s second-highest court sided with the company over a $300 million tax bill.”
  • “The EU court on Wednesday annulled a 2017 decision from the European Commission, the EU’s top antitrust authority, that had ordered Amazon to pay 250 million euros in taxes to Luxembourg, the latest of several big EU tax decisions to be overturned.”
  • The ruling is a significant blow to Margrethe Vestager, an executive vice president of the commission who is leading a campaign to curb alleged excesses by some of the world’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.



Pentagon Backs Off Xiaomi Blacklisting After Legal Challenge

Wall Street Journal

  • The U.S. Defense Department agreed to remove Xiaomi Corp. from a blacklist banning U.S. investment in the Chinese tech giant, opting against further defending a Trump administration action that alleged ties between the smartphone maker and the Chinese military.
  • The retreat comes two months after Xiaomi won a key victory in a federal lawsuit challenging the listing, in which a Washington, D.C., judge criticized the Pentagon’s rationale for the move and ordered a temporary halt against its enforcement.



Pentagon Weighs Ending JEDI Cloud Project Amid Amazon Court Fight

Wall Street Journal

  • Pentagon officials are considering pulling the plug on the star-crossed JEDI cloud-computing project, which has been mired in litigation from Inc. and faces continuing criticism from lawmakers.
  • A federal judge last month refused the Pentagon’s motion to dismiss much of Amazon’s case. A few days later, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the department would review the project.



A blood test may help the diagnosis and treatment of depression

The Economist

  • “Reliable figures are hard to come by, but in some parts of the world as many as one person in four experiences major depression at some point during their life.”
  • “Depression’s diagnosis has, though, a worryingly arbitrary quality to it, depending as it does on a doctor’s assessment of a patient’s mood against a checklist of symptoms which may be present in different combinations and are often, in any case, subjective.”
  • “(Researchers identified) 13 RNA markers (that) form the basis of a blood test that can not only diagnose depression, but also predict who will go on to develop bipolar disorder, who is likely to become ill enough to need hospital treatment in the future, and which drugs will most probably be effective in particular cases.”


U.K. Government lays out plans to protect users online


  • “Social media firms will have to remove harmful content quickly or potentially face multi-billion-pound fines under new legislation.”
  • “It covers a huge range of content to which children might fall victim - including grooming, revenge porn, hate speech, images of child abuse and posts relating to suicide and eating disorders. But it goes much further, taking in terrorism, disinformation, racist abuse and pornography, too. Late additions to the bill include provisions to tackle online scams, such as romance fraud and fake investment opportunities.”
  • “The government has added a new duty of care for social-media sites to protect content defined as ‘democratically important’. This includes content promoting or opposing government policy or a political party ahead of a vote, election or referendum.”



FTC Report to Congress Examines Anti-Competitive Repair Restrictions, Recommends Ways to Expand Consumers’ Repair Options

Federal Trade Commission

  • In a new report to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission identifies numerous types of repair restrictions, such as using adhesives that make parts difficult to replace, limiting the availability of spare parts, and making diagnostic software unavailable.
  • Congress directed the FTC to issue the report, noting that it “is aware of the FTC’s ongoing review of how manufacturersin particular mobile phone and car manufacturers—may limit repairs by consumers and repair shops, and how those limitations may increase costs, limit choice, and impact consumers’ rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.”



Fighting for Fertility


  • In this full episode, “(m)eet people struggling with infertility and the challenges of assisted reproduction.”



Nebraska Governance and Technology Center

Tech Refactored Ep. 17 - Who CARES About WISPs?

  • In this episode we hear from Kent Urwiller, who founded a wireless internet provider, sharing his story and his concerns for the future, followed by a discussion with Christina Mason and Michael Romano on funding for telecoms and wireless internet providers.


What We Are Reading

Gus Hurwitz, Director of the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, submitted the following fascinating article about DarkSide Ransomware Gang, the group behind the Colonial Pipeline attack.

A Closer Look at the DarkSide Ransomware Gang

Krebs on Security

  • “New York City-based cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint said its analysts assess with a moderate-strong degree of confidence that the attack was not intended to damage national infrastructure and was simply associated with a target which had the finances to support a large payment.”
  • (According to DarkSide:)‘We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for other our motives [sic],’ reads an update to the DarkSide Leaks blog. ‘Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.’”
  • Like other ransomware platforms, DarkSide adheres to the current badguy best practice of double extortion, which involves demanding separate sums for both a digital key needed to unlock any files and servers, and a separate ransom in exchange for a promise to destroy any data stolen from the victim.



Elsbeth Magilton, Executive Director of the NGTC, offered her perspective on the following story:

Long March 5B falls into Indian Ocean after world follows rocket reentry

Space News

  • Debris from a large Chinese rocket stage fell into the Indian Ocean late May 8 Eastern as people around the world watched for signs of the fiery reentry event in the skies.”
  • “Data from the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron space tracking later confirmed reentry occurred at approximately 10:15 p.m. Eastern over the Arabian Peninsula, adding that “It is unknown if the debris impacted land or water.”
  • “White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Wednesday that the ‘United States is committed to addressing the risks of growing congestion due to space debris and growing activity in space and we want to work with the international community to promote leadership and responsible space behaviors.’”

Elbeth’s Perspective:

For a space law and policy geek, this story has it all - a rocket stage plummets towards the Earth, international politics and accusations flare, Twitter users tracking spottings. What is less exciting though, is that this situation exemplifies our mounting problem with space congestion and highlights the absence of significant international agreement on space sustainability measures. Most countries, including the U.S., are extremely resistant to creating any kind of binding law regarding de-orbiting rocket stages as they don't want to be limited. While most experts think the international norm for controlled re-entries is developing, this instance is clearly outside that. It's also worth noting, while we're all paying attention to the rocket stage reentry, The Long March 5B successfully launched China’s first space station module directly into low Earth orbit April 28.


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