Human Germline Modification Is Coming

Introduction Inside a decade, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) will approve clinical trials for the genomic modification of a viable human embryo in order to prevent disease. That seems a real possibility in light of significant developments in policy and research this year. While such trials are currently barred in the United States by federal law, the prospect of future trials gained key support from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Continue Reading →

Is Your Smart Home Spying on You? Personal Data Issues with the Internet of Things

In the finale of the latest season of HBO’s Silicon Valley, a network of “smart” refrigerators were the unlikely heroes. In earlier episodes, the fictional Pied Piper company installed their innovative software – designed to compress and store peer-to-peer, shared data – in their home “smart” refrigerator. Due to some glitch, the software was downloaded by other refrigerators of the same model. Unknown to the company, the refrigerators continually backed up the data stored in Continue Reading →

Internet Piracy: The Effects of Streaming Services and the Digital Marketplace

Internet piracy was thought to be an unstoppable blight on the digital market as recently as five years ago. As quickly as music, movie, and video game companies could shut down pirates and pirate sites, new ones would appear. The notorious Pirate Bay website, for example, is practically indestructible, having survived being forcibly taken down almost a dozen times. Entertainment and software companies began to prophesize the end of their industries due to lost profits Continue Reading →

The Use of Biometric Data for Personal Identification Purposes

Biometric identification technologies, once the realm of science fiction movies, have now become ubiquitous for many Americans. Roughly 90 million Americans own iPhones [1], which for several years, have used fingerprint scans in lieu of passcodes, and the most recent iPhone X, unveiled in September 2017, uses facial mapping technologies to identify owners. [2] Smartphone technology is just one of many uses for biometrics. Biometrics are also used by retailers to track and analyze the shopper experience [3]. Continue Reading →

Video Game Loot Boxes

Introduction Recently, a trend has developed in the video game industry of selling virtual “loot boxes” to consumers. This concept evolved from conventional trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon and developed in the virtual sphere through mobile games and virtual card games such as Activision Blizzard’s Hearthstone. However, as this fledgling concept moved beyond free-to-play mobile games and into fully-priced $60 video games, consumers have responded with significant backlash against what Continue Reading →

STLR Link Roundup – November 3, 2017

Climate Science Special Report On November 3rd, The White House released a Climate Science Special Report written by 13 federal agencies. The Report concludes that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence. This report comes as a Continue Reading →

Gill v. Whitford and the Math of Gerrymandering

On October 3, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, 137 S. Ct. 2268 (Mem) (2017), the latest case to reach the court contesting partisan gerrymandering. First coined in 1812 to lampoon a Massachusetts governor (Elbridge Gerry) and a particularly ugly congressional district (allegedly resembling a salamander), gerrymandering is the practice of crafting voting districts to give one group an electoral advantage over another. Erica Klarre, Gerrymandering Is Illegal, But Only Mathematicians Can Continue Reading →

The Next Rembrandt: Originality and Authorship of AI Generated Works

In recent years, the news has been flooded by innovations in artificial intelligence and its ability to create a diverse range of creative content. AI has produced music, poetry, paintings, and even sci-fi films. Some of the poetry is so “real” that it has even fooled humans into believing that it was generated by a human writer. As the list of creative works continues to grow, so does the elephant in the room: who owns Continue Reading →

STLR Link Roundup – October 27, 2017

Listeria-Based Recall In US and Canada California-based vegetable supplier Mann Packing has issued a voluntary recall of certain “minimally processed” vegetable and vegetable-containing products from its customers across the US and Canada. According to the company announcement posted on the FDA’s website, the distributor made the decision after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found “a single positive result” of Listeria monocytogenes in one of their products. All products covered in the recall carried “best if used by” Continue Reading →

Rapid DNA Testing: Verification or Collection Tool?

This year, the first local police precinct received and began using an on-site Rapid DNA testing device. Within 90 minutes, a cheek swab of any suspect can be run, exonerating or verifying their identity. If this program is a success, more criminal investigations will be solved with greater efficiency than ever before.  However, the limitations of the devices are pronounced. They cannot, for example, be used to help parse the controversy surrounding interpretation of complex Continue Reading →