Tech Roundup - May 21, 2021

Fri, 05/21/2021

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



'Bay High' — LPS, Rabble Mill partnering on new focus program centered around content creation, digital media

Lincoln Journal Star

  • Bay High is a high school focus program that creates upward mobility and opportunity for young creators. It’s created in partnership between The Bay (a program of nonprofit Rabble Mill), Lincoln Public Schools and Nebraska’s business and charitable community.
  • Bay High will prepare and equip students to be innovators in the progressive world of entrepreneurship, emerging technology and content creation — rooted in the creative disciplines of skateboarding, music, fashion and digital art.


New UNL lab to study safeguards for U.S. food supply

Lincoln Journal Star

  • A partnership between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the National Strategic Research Institute will study how to improve the biosecurity of the U.S. food supply.
  • The NSRI Collaborative Biosecurity Laboratory, which will be located on UNL's East Campus, will study agricultural and natural resources security, development of biosurveillance, biodetection, diagnostic tools and pandemic preparedness.


Team IDs key to sorghum’s heat resilience, aims to boost corn’s tolerance

Nebraska Today

  • A University of Nebraska–Lincoln team led by former postdoctoral fellow Lucas Busta, working in the lab of Ed Cahoon, director of the Center for Plant Science Innovation, has taken a big step toward identifying the biochemical and genetic basis for the large differences in the ability of corn and sorghum to tolerate environmental extremes.
  • The research team discovered that sorghum not only has more wax on its surfaces than corn, but also a highly enriched, steroid-like wax on mature plants. The abundance of this particular kind of wax was missed in previous sorghum analyses.
  • The steroid wax has been shown to “seal” the wax of some desert plants to further reduce water loss. 


Nebraska bill to allow banks to offer crypto services passes to final round


  • Lawmakers in the U.S. state of Nebraska have taken another step towards passing a bill that will allow state banks to offer cryptocurrency services, (passing the bill to the final round of debate).
  • If passed, the legislature would make Nebraska the second U.S. state to formalize a charter for cryptocurrency-centric banks. Wyoming was the first state to do so, chartering its first crypto bank in September 2020.


Survey finds Nebraska educators can adjust to anything, but at what cost?

Nebraska Today

  • In March 2020all 983 Nebraska public schools sat vacant, and all the state’s 330,000 children from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 were learning in out-of-classroom environments.
  • Teachers reported low levels of student participation in remote learning, resulting in large numbers of students missing critical instruction. More than 40% of responding teachers reported that only about half their students participated — which means half did not.
  • Educators also expressed concern about the lack of internet and computers in some children’s homes, as well as parental engagement, difficulties monitoring of out-of-school learning and challenges they faced supporting special needs students learning at home.


Local Startup Spotlight


  • Company cam is an app that helps contractors use and manage photos to document progress on jobs, saving them time and making sure they have all their bases covered.
  • Company cam also helps teams collaborate as well as generate “before and after” reports that can be promoted on social media.



Senators roll out bipartisan data privacy bill

The Verge

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has teamed up with a bipartisan group of senators (...) to reintroduce the Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act. The privacy legislation would force websites to grant users greater control over their data and allow them to opt out of data tracking and collection.
  • (Additionally) if a website were to suffer a data breach, it would have to notify users within 72 hours of it occurring.
  • The sheer volume of overlapping (state) statutes has created a growing desire for a federal privacy framework that would make corporate compliance simpler.


Home Health Agencies, Lawmakers Seek Medicare Telehealth Payments

Bloomberg Law

  • A group of bipartisan congressional lawmakers is again pushing for Medicare to reimburse home health agencies for telehealth services they provide during the Covid-19 pandemic—and during any future public health emergencies.
  • But concerns at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about fraud, overuse—and adapting the home health payment formula to virtual visits—have kept the industry from billing for telehealth services, said William Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice.
  • A fast-growing slice of Medicare spending, telehealth services would help home health agencies extend their reach as shortages of staff and protective gear make it harder and more costly to provide in-person care.



FTC Sues Frontier Communications for Misrepresenting Internet Speeds


  • The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement agencies from six states, sued Internet service provider Frontier Communications, alleging that the company did not provide many consumers with internet service at the speeds it promised them, and charged many of them for more expensive and higher-speed service than Frontier actually provided.
  • The FTC’s allegations concern Frontier’s Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Internet service, which is transmitted over copper telephone wires. Frontier provides DSL service to approximately 1.3 million consumers, many in rural areas, across 25 states.


RNA, good for vaccines, can also be used as a pesticide

The Economist

  • Some biologists think rnai (the biological process integral to the creation of several Covid-19 vaccines) may have an important non-medical use as a precisely targeted, environmentally friendly pesticide.
  • The theory is simple. Identify a protein crucial to the survival of the pest in question. Tailor a specific interfering rna molecule to sabotage production of that protein. Deliver it into the bodies of the pests. Then wait for them all to die.


Facebook faces prospect of ‘devastating’ data transfer ban after Irish ruling


  • Ireland’s data regulator can resume a probe that may trigger a ban on Facebook’s transatlantic data transfers, the High Court ruled on Friday, raising the prospect of a stoppage that the company warns would have a devastating impact on its business.
  • The case stems from EU concerns that U.S. government surveillance may not respect the privacy rights of EU citizens when their personal data is sent to the United States for commercial use.
  • Facebook had challenged both the inquiry and the Preliminary Draft Decision (PDD), saying they threatened "devastating" and "irreversible" consequences for its business, which relies on processing user data to serve targeted online ads.


Car Makers to Get No Special Treatment in Chip Shortage, Commerce Secretary Says

Wall Street Journal

  • Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she is looking for ways to help auto makers amid a global semiconductor shortage but won’t give priority to them over other chip users, as the industry presses the Biden administration for assistance.
  • A global shortage of chips is hitting everything from appliances to laptops. Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. are among an array of tech companies that have seen sales slump because of the crunch, which intensified after people rushed to buy electronics of all kinds during the pandemic.


United by Geography, Senators Cross Aisle to Help Agriculture

Bloomberg Law

  • Carbon credit markets, broadband, and expanding trade opportunities are priorities for both parties on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee to help agriculture producers recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Rural Development and Energy Chair Tina Smith (D-Minn.) plans to encourage strong public-private partnerships between local community providers and the government “to get that last mile of broadband service installed,” she said in a telephone interview.


Nebraska Governance and Technology Center

Tech Refactored Ep. 19 - Law in Disasters: Specialized Courts and Oversight During Emergencies

  • This is the second of our Regulation at Scale episodes, featuring scholars who worked with the NGTC to explore the challenges that arise when new rules or technologies affect broad swaths of society all at once.
  • This episode features Catherine Baylin Duryea discussing her paper, “Crumbs of Judicial Relief?’ Regulatory Oversight During Emergencies,” and Barak Orbach on his paper, “The Duty to Monitor Disruption Risks.”


What We Are Reading

Neil Rutledge, Research Associate for the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, submitted the following two-part discussion on whether corporations paying hacker ransoms should be legal.

Ransomware: Should paying hacker ransoms be illegal?

BBC News

Jen Ellis, Rapid7 community and public affairs vice-president:

“Prohibiting payments is a great goal to shoot for.” (..) (However), “in the world we do live in, banning payments would almost certainly result in a pretty horrific game of 'chicken', whereby criminals would shift all their focus towards organisations which are least likely to be able to deal with downtime - for example hospitals, water-treatment plants, energy providers, and schools.”

Cyber Threat Alliance president and chief executive Michael Daniel:

"The case for prohibiting ransom payments is clear. Ransomware attacks are primarily motivated by profit. And without profit, attackers will shift away from this tactic. Further, ransom profits are used to fund other, even more dangerous crime, such as human trafficking, child exploitation, and terrorism. Finally, payments beget more attacks, reinforcing the tactic's utility.”

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