Tech Roundup - May 28, 2021

Fri, 05/28/2021

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


‘Very creepy’ -- Peeping drone unnerving Lincoln neighborhood

Lincoln Journal Star

  • Residents in the Sheridan Boulevard neighborhood of Lincoln have reported sightings of a drone flying at night near neighborhood houses, including within arms reach of a woman while she slept, just outside her third floor bedroom.
  • Police are investigating, although it remains unclear what charge they would bring against the drone operator as there is “nothing in the municipal code prohibiting flying a drone in a neighborhood,” said  Officer Luke Bonkiewicz. It is however “illegal to operate a drone in a careless or reckless manner that could endanger the life or property of another person;” it also could be “a disturbing the peace case as well, if you’re flying it around windows,” he said.


Saunders County Board approves solar farm despite local opposition

Lincoln Journal Star

  • utility-scale solar farm in Saunders County has gotten the green light, despite objections from some neighbors.
  • A Pennsylvania-based energy developer is proposing to build the farm on 500 rural acres south of Yutan and sell the electricity to the Omaha Public Power District.
  • Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2022, and the facility is expected to start generating electricity in spring 2023. The project will be capable of generating 81 megawatts, or enough electricity to power 14,000 homes.


Nebraska research collaborative to study quantum materials through $20M grant

Lincoln Journal Star

  • Through a five-year, $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research — better known as EPSCoR — a total of 20 researchers and educators will work to push the field of quantum materials forward.
  • On Monday, UNL announced the creation of Emergent Quantum Materials and Technologies, or EQUATE, a partnership with five other institutions in the state: the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Creighton University, Nebraska Indian Community College and Little Priest Tribal College.


Researchers intend to discover microbiome’s role in personalized nutrition

Nebraska Today

  • Personalized nutrition has emerged in recent years as a key potential solution to a variety of diseases that originate in the gut, and Nebraska scientists are mining microbiome data to determine how individuals’ digestive systems might respond to different nutritional approaches.
  • Ultimately, these findings could help scientists and doctors recommend specific types of foods — say, yogurts — to individuals to nurture beneficial bacteria in their guts and stave off diseases such as diabetes and obesity.


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.


Women in Tech: Evelyn Espinoza-Macias

Silicon Prairie News

  • Espinoza-Macias had dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but her career plans would change markedly during her senior year. Upon hearing of the AIM Institute’s free code camp at Omaha South High School, and with encouragement from her teachers, she signed up. Though difficult, the class sparked a passion for coding and helped her realize the advantages of a tech career.
  • The program inspired her to embark on a life-changing journey that will define her future and reveal her potential to be a technology leader.


Thompson’s drone work helps inform, improve producer decisions

‘She’s a Scientist’ from Nebraska Today

  • ‘She’s a Scientist’ showcased Laura Thompson, associate extension educator with Nebraska Extension, who uses sensor-laden drones to fly over farms, collecting data that is used to show producers how to save money.


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.


Nebraska Tech Centers

National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (NCITE)

  • “NCITE is America’s latest terrorism and targeted violence-fighting tool. Our work is counterterrorism research: 50+ academics from 18 universities focused on 10 pressing areas of study. Our goal is to innovate, educate, and create new prevention strategies while building a workforce pipeline where it’s desperately needed: in STEM and Homeland Security fields.”



Senate Nears Approval of Bill to Keep U.S. Lead in Technology

The Wall Street Journal

  • The Senate appeared poised to pass legislation aimed at helping the U.S. maintain its lead in technology amid rising competition from China and other nations.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who has led the charge for the Innovation and Competition Act, said it would help the U.S. halt a gradual decline as the world’s leader in scientific research and innovation “and lay the foundation, instead, for another American century.”


Social app Parler is cracking down on hate speech — but only on iPhones

The Washington Post

  • Shut down after the Jan. 6 riot, Parler is using a new artificial intelligence moderation system with more stringent standards for the App Store than other platforms.
  • Posts that are labeled “hate” by Parler’s new artificial intelligence moderation system won’t be visible on iPhones or iPads. There’s a different standard for people who look at Parler on other smartphones or on the Web: They will be able to see posts marked as “hate,” which includes racial slurs, by clicking through to see them.


Pandemic gives boost as more states move to digital IDs

Associated Press

  • The card that millions of people use to prove their identity to everyone from police officers to liquor store owners may soon be a thing of the past as a growing number of states develop digital driver’s licenses.
  • At least five states have implemented a mobile driver’s license program. Three others — Utah, Iowa and Florida — intend to launch programs by next year, with more expected to follow suit.


Apple Faces Criticism Over Its Cooperation With China


  • Apple has faced heat in recent weeks over its compliance with Chinese laws in order to continue its operations in China. Obeying local law in China means that Apple shares consumer data with the government and censors content according to Chinese government standards.
  • The company has removed certain apps from the Chinese Apple app storeincluding programs used by Hong Kong protesters to track the police and VPNs used by Chinese internet users to evade censorship.


D.C. attorney general files suit accusing Amazon of price fixing


  • District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine launched a lawsuit against Amazon on Tuesday over allegations that the e-commerce giant is stifling competition by fixing prices on its online marketplace, a move that escalates the tech behemoth's legal threats in the U.S.
  • The lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, alleges that Amazon has used anti-competitive agreements and policies to force third-party vendors to incorporate artificially high fees when they operate on its platform.


AI Firm That Scraped Billions of Faces Sparks European Backlash

Bloomberg Law

  • Clearview AI Inc. was hit by a wave of complaints across Europe for allegedly breaking the region’s tough privacy laws by scraping billions of facial images from social-media profiles and the internet.
  • Clearview, which scrapes photos from social media accounts with the goal of helping law enforcement agencies, has come under increased scrutiny in Europe. The U.K. privacy commissioner and its Australian counterpart last year opened a joint probe into how Clearview’s facial-recognition technology uses people’s data.


Adapting to the Cyber Domain: Comparing U.S. and U.K. Institutional, Legal and Policy Innovations

Hoover Institution

  • In an opinion piece by Bobby Chesney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas School of Law, Chesney argues that there are distinctive differences between US and UK responses to cyber threats that have important implications for each nation's responses.
  • Chesney argues that there are more “anxieties about the roles of intelligence agencies” and an “institutional formalism” that exist in the US system that are less pronounced in the UK.
  • This has resulted in the UK coordinating their strategies and responses with private actors, leveraging their expertise and familiarity with their own systems, rather than the US’s government-led approach.
  • Chesney notes that this may, in part, reflect a societal difference with regard to public trust of intelligence agencies, “(w)ide swaths of the American private sector most certainly would have balked at voluntary participation in programs associated with (the NSA).”



Nebraska Governance and Technology Center

Teach Me Interview Series: Cody Stolle on Connected and Automated Vehicles

  • In this interview Prof. Stolle discusses Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs), which are “smart” vehicles with features that allow vehicles to talk to each other, providing “congestion warning systems or emergency brake warning.
  • Stolle explains that “CAVs are linked to multiple potential societal benefits: improving transportation safety by preventing on-road and run-off-road (ROR) crashesproviding critical transportation needs for vulnerable, aged, and disabled peoplesreducing congestion through traffic planning; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by improving the efficiency of the transportation network.”


What We Are Reading

Neil Rutledge, Research Associate for the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, submitted the following story of the 2011 RSA hack, where Chinese government spies stole “the crown jewels of cybersecurity - stripping protections from firms and government agencies worldwide.”

The Full Story of the Stunning RSA Hack Can Finally Be Told


  • The RSA breach, when it became public days later, would redefine the cybersecurity landscape. The company’s nightmare was a wake-up call not only for the information security industry—the worst-ever hack of a cybersecurity firm to date—but also a warning to the rest of the world.
  • For those with a longer memory, the RSA breach was the original massive supply chain attack. State cyberspies—who were later revealed to be working in the service of China’s People’s Liberation Army—penetrated infrastructure relied on across the globe to protect the internet. And in doing so, they pulled the rug out from under the entire world’s model of digital security.

Research Associate Neil Rutledge offered this perspective:

Wired’s reporting read’s at times like a short-form cyber-spy novel; critical stolen files on a remote server whisked away moments before a security analyst for RSA could delete them and thereby protect the web from vast calamity; an ultra-secure server protected by an almost-complete air gap - but with one (crucial) single-server connection that would open every fifteen minutes; an initial breach facilitated by a bungling Australian employee who opened a phishing email using an outdated, unpatched Excel program.

Ultimately the hack compromised security at Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman along with 20% of the top Fortune 100 companies. As is typical of hacks of this magnitude, the full scope of the damage was never fully disclosed, but it would presage future major supply chain cyber attacks in the years to come.

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