This is our fifth edition of the ‘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 email@example.com.
Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET)’s ‘What If…’ Series
- NET’s “What If…” video series “tells stories of innovation and creativity in Nebraska.”
- This episode features “a Diller, NE farmer who raises fresh shrimp; two young entrepreneurs ‘putting new ideas into old dirt’ near Albion, NE; ambitious UNL research looking at corn roots in many interesting ways; and young ladies from Bassett, NE who started a gelato business in their high school.”
- “Y Combinator, based in Mountain View, California, the heart of Silicon Valley, selected Logica from among thousands of applications to be part of its winter 2021 group of startups. Previous companies in the program have included, among many other tech economy darlings, Dropbox, Airbnb, Doordash and Cruise, which is General Motors’ self-driving car program.”
- The Y Combinator website describes the program this way: “We work intensively with the companies for three months to get them into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day, when the startups present their companies to a carefully selected, invite-only audience.”
- Aksarben projects the following tech employment trends in Nebraska based on the recent numbers from the Bureau for Labor Statistics: “We believe that the trend line for most regional communities continues the increase of Math and IT employment in the region. To this end, Nebraska’s overall technology growth over the five-year period analyzed is about 8% or 1.6% annually.
- “The goal to increase technologist jobs in the state is not just about job growth for job growth sake – but the intentional effort to increase and improve the pipelines for technologists – whether that be through recruitment, creation, upskilling, or retraining.”
Local Startup Spotlight
- Lincoln-based “Beehive public asset management software was built to connect you to your community’s infrastructure and assets in a simple way. The ultimate goal being to help you capture, preserve and use data to make more informed decisions. No more guessing where an asset is located or piecing together what work has been done to it. No more relying on disparate tools, paperwork or memory to uncover critical questions or prioritize efforts around assets and infrastructure.”
- “The use of facial recognition for surveillance, or algorithms that manipulate human behaviour, will be banned under proposed EU regulations on artificial intelligence.”
- “Any companies that develop prohibited services, or fail to supply correct information about them, could face fines of up to 4% of their global revenue.”
- “Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. plans to spend $100 billion over the next three years to expand its chip fabrication capacity, a staggering financial commitment to address booming demand for new technologies.
- TSMC is the world’s go-to semiconductor foundry, or producer of chips designed by others. The silicon it churns out goes into practically every modern piece of electronics, from smartphones and smart fridges to connected cars.
- As Google moves to phase out third-party cookies on its Chrome browser, it is introducing an alternative advertising model called a Federate Learning of Cohorts (“FloC”) which would “enable ‘interest-based advertising on the web’ without letting advertisers know your identity.”
- Instead, users will be “associated with a ‘cohort,’ a group of users sufficiently large enough to make you at least semi-anonymous to the companies targeting you.
- “The massive valuation, which dwarfs more traditional financial companies including Intercontinental Exchange Group Inc. and Nasdaq Inc. itself, is a landmark moment for the crypto industry and for Coinbase.”
- “‘They are going to build out a full financial services company,’ said Barry Schuler, a co-founder of Coinbase investor DFJ Growth who until last year sat on the company’s board. “Like a crypto version of a Goldman Sachs or a Morgan Stanley.”
New York Times
- Countries like Sudan and Eritrea have teams of locust trackers who are trained to find the insects and recognize which life cycle stage they are in. They use a tablet-based program to transmit locust data by satellite to national and international authorities so experts can design appropriate control strategies.
- PlantVillage’s app uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help farmers in 60 countries, primarily in Africa, diagnose problems in their fields. Borrowing from this blueprint, Dr. Hughes and his colleagues completed the new app, eLocust3m, in just a month.
- Spotify Technology SA is pledging to “innovate responsibly” as the music and podcast streaming service rolls out new voice activation features, responding to concerns raised over people’s privacy and data security.
- Spotify recently patented another technology that would use speech recognition to make listening suggestions based on factors such as the speaker’s perceived gender or emotional state.
- “Imagine all the implications that come with collecting information that’s given voluntarily with consent,” Isedua Oribhabor, U.S. policy analyst at Access Now, said before the meeting with Spotify. “Imagine how much more heightened that is when it’s more sensitive information.”
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Media
- Santosh Pitla, associate professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, is working to develop Unmanned Ground Vehicles, or UGVs, that can detect soil conditions across a field and apply various inputs at specific locations.
- The next step in his research, funded by a $452,783 grant from the U.S.Department of Agriculture, will be to develop a process for refilling UGVs through the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, adding a even higher degree of automation and efficiency to the process of optimizing agricultural outputs.
Nebraska Governance and Technology Center
- In our 14th episode of ‘Tech Refactored,’ host Gus Hurwitz, Director of the NGTC, was joined by Eric Goldman, Professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and Co-Director of the High Tech Law Institute to discuss Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and a concurrence by Justice Thomas of the United States Supreme Court.
- Goldman and Hurwitz discussed how Justice Thomas’s concurrence could suggest a way forward for states which want to pass laws requiring social media platforms to allow users to post content to which they object, so long as that content doesn’t violate the First Amendment.
What We Are Reading
United States Department of Justice
- Authorities have executed a court-authorized operation to copy and remove malicious web shells from hundreds of vulnerable computers in the United States. They were running on-premises versions of Microsoft Exchange Server software used to provide enterprise-level email service.
- This move was an effort by the Justice Department to protect vulnerable computer systems by removing potential ‘backdoors’ that could be used by hackers to steal or manipulate files on compromised systems. However, these web shells were removed without the owner’s knowledge or consent.
Justin Firestone, Assistant Professor of Practice in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management and in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, offered this take:
"Initial reactions from the blogosphere suggest we should view the FBI's actions as one of two extremes. Either this was the FBI being a good neighbor by shutting and locking some windows I left open when I went on vacation, or it represents the first step of the FBI doing whatever it wants on private networks.
I bet the truth lies somewhere in between."
El Paso Matters
- The border city of McAllen Texas has taken a major step to closing the “digital divide” by installing city-wide high-speed wireless internet at no cost to the residents.
- The coronavirus pandemic provided the impetus for creating the citywide Wi-fi in this town of 140,000. Last June, the McAllen City Commission approved using $3.1 million in federal coronavirus stimulus funding to install 1,000 Wi-Fi access points on neighborhood light poles so students no longer had to leave home to get online.
Lysandra Márquez, Communications and Events Specialist at the NGTC, offered the following comment:
“Bridging the digital divide has become a top priority across the nation, and the pandemic has made the inequities in access to the internet even more apparent. Here's a story of success in southern Texas in how two local governments are connecting not just t