Tech Roundup - April 2, 2021

Thu, 04/01/2021

This is our third 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


Husker Research Shows Palm Oil Production Can Grow While Protecting Ecosystems

Nebraska Today

  • Palm oil, the most important source of vegetable oil in the world, is made into an array of products, “from food, to toiletries to biodiesel.”

  • UNL scientist Patricio Grassini and his team demonstrated that good agronomic practices could increase palm oil production by 68% on existing plantations, reducing the need for deforestation and putting substantially more money in the pockets of small-farmers in the developing world.

Study Identifies Potential Biomarkers for Cognitive Struggles After Surgery

Nebraska Today

  • Up to half of older patients undergoing surgery face postoperative delirium, a condition triggered by a surgery that requires anesthesia and whose trademarks are confusion, disturbed mental faculties, loss of orientation and anxiety.

  • University of Nebraska researchers found evidence that postoperative delirium may have reliable biomarkers that would enable clinicians to predict and treat the condition. 

Researcher’s Work Developing Nano-sensors to Detect Disease Highlighted in First Edition of “She’s a Scientist” Video Series

UNL’s “She’s a Scientist” Series

  • Nicole Iverson, assistant professor of biological systems at UNL is developing nanoscopic sensors aimed at detecting earlier hints of disease at the cellular level.

  • Future videos highlighting the work of women in science will appear all month long in Nebraska Today as part of Women’s History Month. 

Team IDs Inflammation-fighting Nanoparticles in Honey

Nebraska Today

  • A multi-disciplinary team of Nebraska researchers set out to evaluate whether claims that honey, long used as an ointment, does indeed have anti-inflammatory properties.

  • The team found that honey contains tiny membrane-protected particles that carry compounds, called microRNAs, that are indeed capable of reducing cellular inflammation, showing that the effectiveness of honey as a folk-remedy for treating swelling has a basis in fact

Local Startup Spotlight

Epicrop Technologies Inc

  • Epicrop is developing a unique epigenetic technology to improve crop yields and stress tolerance. Epigenetic modifications are naturally occurring biological marks on the plant’s DNA or chromatin that help the plant develop normally and adapt to its environment.


Supreme Court Rules FCC Can Relax Media-Ownership Rules 

Bloomberg News

  • “The U.S. Supreme Court let the Federal Communications Commission ease limits on the ownership of local media outlets, siding with the broadcast industry and former President Donald Trump’s administration in a long-running fight.”

  • “Republicans and the broadcast industry have been seeking to relax the ownership limits for decades, saying the restrictions are badly outdated. Easing the rules could mean a wave of consolidation affecting TV stations nationwide.”

Facebook Undersea Cable to Boost South East Asia Internet


  • “The proposed cables will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-Pacific by about 70%.”

  • “Previous plans by Alphabet to connect the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines were abandoned after the DOJ recommended the FCC block the plan on national security grounds.”

Companies Must Report Hacks to U.S. Under Proposed Order

Bloomberg Law

  • “Companies doing business with the federal government would be required to report hacks of their computer networks within a few days, according to a draft executive order that the Biden administration is urgently trying to complete, people familiar with the matter said.”

  • The order is part of a number of new initiatives pursued by the administration’s new cybersecurity team, which is hoping to take advantage of the crisis created by what is known as the SolarWinds hack to institute a broad security overhaul.

Biden Aims for Universal High-Speed Internet in Infrastructure Plan

Wall Street Journal

  • President Biden aims to spend $100 billion to close gaps in the nation’s broadband network, calling affordable high-speed internet connections critical for modern households but leaving central details of the plan up in the air.

  • The White House’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal released Wednesday includes the goal of connecting every U.S. home and business while also cutting prices for internet access, dubbing broadband the “new electricity” in its societal importance.

Anyone with an iPhone Can Now Make Deepfakes. We Aren’t Ready for What Happens Next

Washington Post

  • Realistic videos of people doing things that never really happened have become shockingly easy to create.

  • Existing apps let you “control the face of another person like a puppet” (Avatarify) or turn an existing photo into a “funny” lip-syncing video (Wombo).

Why it matters: existing deepfake technologies have posed problems, including being weaponized, particularly against women, to create humiliating, nonconcensual fake pornography. The greater availability of these technologies could expand the scope of those problems. 

What a Gambling App Already Knows About You

New York Times

  • A company, Sky Bet, maintains access to its users “banking records, mortgage details, location coordinates, and an intimate portrait” of its users gambling habits.

  • “Instead of using data to identify and help problem gamblers,” “critics of the industry say, information is used to keep players hooked,” including using predictive models to anticipate how much a problem gambler would be worth to the company if he returned to gambling.

FTC Challenges Illumina’s Proposed Acquisition of Cancer Detection Test Maker Grail

Federal Trade Commission

  • “The Federal Trade Commission has filed an administrative complaint and authorized a federal court lawsuit to block Illumina’s $7.1 billion proposed acquisition of Grail—a maker of a non-invasive, early detection liquid biopsy test that can screen for multiple types of cancer in asymptomatic patients at very early stages using DNA sequencing.”

  • “Illumina is the only provider of DNA sequencing that is a viable option for these multi-cancer early detection, or MCED, tests in the United States.”

Nebraska Governance and Technology Center

Nebraska Governance and Technology Center Plans Bold Approach in Technology Governance Curriculum

  • Beginning in the fall semester of 2021, the NGTC will offer new technology governance curriculum, taught in the College of Law but open to all graduate students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, acknowledging the interdisciplinary nature of technology.

  • This curriculum is designed to be integrated and modular.

  • Courses will include Cyberlaw: Jurisdiction and Laws Governing Users, Platforms: Networks and Infrastructure, Platforms: Speech and Media, Privacy: Informational, Reputational, and Dignitary Harms, Cybersecurity and Sectoral Data Regulation.

What We Are Reading

Amazon Web Services Launches Space Accelerator Program for Startups

  • Amazon Web Services is launching a space accelerator program for startups, the company announced March 30.

  • “‘AWS and Seraphim will select a cohort of space startups to participate in an intensive, four-week program with AWS cloud and technical training to help them accelerate research, development and growth,’ Sandy Carter, vice president of programs for AWS worldwide public sector, said in a blogpost.”

Elsbeth Magilton, Executive Director of the NGTC, had the following observation about the program:

"New Space continues to excite our students and influence the types of space law and policy research questions we pursue here. Seeing a behemoth like Amazon Web Services put their weight behind space startups is an exciting move in a sector where it's hard to succeed."

Tech Roundup, April 2, 2021