UB School of Law Professors Sound Alarm on Privacy Concerns Related to Coronavirus Surveillance

As if the global coronavirus pandemic didn’t give us enough to worry about, privacy experts — including University of Baltimore School of Law professors Michele E. Gilman and Kim Wehle — are warning that the use of surveillance networks to track the spread of the virus is forcing governments to make difficult trade-offs between public health and privacy.

Prof. Kim Wehle

Prof. Kim Wehle

In a March 30 article for The Bulwark, Wehle, who is a visiting professor and fellow at American University this semester, explains how governments are digitally tracking citizens as part of their pandemic management strategies.

“As of this writing, eighteen countries across the globe—including European democracies like Germany and Austria—are using some form of digital tracking to get on top of the coronavirus,” Wehle writes. “In their most modest forms, programs have ranged from using apps to identify people who have been exposed to infected individuals (e.g., Singapore and India); to using phone records, CCTV feeds, credit card transactions, and GPS systems to trace COVID-19 patients’ contacts (e.g., Poland and South Korea).

“Some countries are imposing fines and prison time for violating quarantine orders (e.g., Hong Kong). Italy has reportedly employed ‘an aggregated and anonymous heat map’ to trace population movements in Lombardy. In some countries, governments have gone even further—adopting physical surveillance measures like facial-recognition cameras or surveillance drones (e.g., Belgium, Spain, Russia and China), or censoring parties for publicizing false or misleading information on the Internet (e.g., Singapore, Iran and Egypt),” she writes.

Despite the protections promised American citizens in the Bill of Rights, when we waive our privacy rights for the convenience of using online services like Amazon and Facebook, who then sell our data to the government, we really have no recourse, Wehle writes.

“When we click and swipe and post and tweet, we are willingly giving our personal data to Google or Facebook or Twitter—which, as private companies, are generally not bound by the Constitution’s restrictions. And unlike a police officer physically rifling through closets and drawers, the availability of big data makes surveillance possible through application of mathematical algorithms to many bits of information that are already swirling in cyberspace, untethered to a particular narrative,” she writes.

Wehle elaborates on this topic in a March 30 podcast on Seattle radio station KVI-AM.

Venable Professor of Law Michele Gilman

Venable Professor of Law Michele Gilman

In a March 23 article in Coindesk, Gilman, who is Venable Professor of Law and director of the Saul Ewing Advocacy Clinic at UB, shares similar concerns. “During times of crisis, civil liberties are most at risk because the normal balance of safety versus privacy becomes tilted toward safety,” says Gilman, who for the 2019-20 academic year has been a fellow at Data & Society, a New York-based think tank that studies the social impact of data-centric technology.

“A major concern is that new surveillance technologies deployed during the coronavirus crises will become the ‘new normal’ and permanently embedded in everyday life after the crisis passes. This can result in ongoing mass surveillance of the population without adequate transparency, accountability or fairness,” she says. 

“Things that may now be considered mundane, such as an abundance of surveillance cameras, being subjected to full body screens at the airport and the idea that we are constantly being observed, weren’t always the case,” the article’s author, Benjamin Powers, notes. “Often, public crises provide opportunities for surveillance architecture to move forward and become normalized fixtures of society. and create commercial opportunities for tech companies to provide new and ever more intrusive ways of tracking individuals.”

Facial recognition software is one example of technologies deployed by governments under the guide of enhancing public safety, but with significant potential for abuse. Extensive research shows the technology is not equally accurate on everyone.

“Facial recognition is notoriously inaccurate for women and people of color,” says Gilman. “Given this, why would we adopt such technologies to battle coronavirus? Moreover, we need much more information on how these technologies are effective in battling a global pandemic.”

Wehle concludes her Bulwark piece with this: “It is difficult in this moment of global anxiety and fear to identify silver linings. But if the COVID-19 pandemic focuses public attention on the privacy threats posed by big data surveillance—and the lack of unequivocal constitutional protections from government abuse of personal data—that may be a hint of silver in the gloom.”

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Inside the Virtual Classroom: As UB Law Courses Shift to Online Learning, Alumni Step Up to Assist

Students returned to class last week ready for the home stretch of the spring semester. However, like many colleges and universities across the nation, the return to class looked a little different than normal. And some alumni are stepping up to help.

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Baltimore School of Law transitioned on March 23 to online learning for the remainder of the semester. For some educators, that means dissecting every part of their syllabus and determining what can work in an online environment.

Prof. Hugh McClean

Prof. Hugh McClean

To help faculty make the transition, the university has ramped up its technological support and training resources. Most notably, UB has implemented Zoom, a leader in video conferencing, to enhance online educational instruction.

For Professor Hugh McClean, who taught his first Zoom class on March 25, the transition to online teaching was seamless. A clip from the movie “Office Space” — “What would you say … you do here?” — an alumni panel and lively discussion were just some of the highlights from his first virtual class.

McClean directs The Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic, and his class comprises certified student-attorneys who work with and represent real clients. Three recent UB law graduates who worked in the clinic joined students in the online classroom for a panel discussion titled, “What Does Career Satisfaction Mean to You?”

Grason Wiggins, J.D. '16

Grason Wiggins, J.D. ’16, via Zoom

Panelists included Justin Hoy, J.D. ’19, an attorney with LTX Law Group; Grason Wiggins, J.D. ’16, a lobbyist for the International Franchise Association, and Rachel Park, J.D. ’17, who recently joined the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a member of its U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services team.

The panelists shared advice, stories and experiences as working professionals in three very different areas of law and how they each found professional satisfaction in their careers. The goal was to provide practice-area exploration for students so they feel confident moving into their careers post-graduation.

Hoy described how working in a small law firm meets his needs. “I like having the ability to pick my own cases,” he said. “It gives me the flexibility to say ‘yes’to cases I’m passionate about and ‘no’ to cases I might not believe in, or a client I don’t feel comfortable representing.”

“I wanted to be a lobbyist because I enjoy having the ability to effect change and have an impact,” said Wiggins. “The very nature of my job suits my personality very well.” He added that his time in the Veterans Advocacy Clinic prepared him well for the practice of law. “My experience … really prepared me to work with clients and to learn how to ask those hard-hitting, sensitive questions tactfully,” he said.

Park said of her job with DHS: “This position has been one of the most intellectually stimulating jobs I have had.  And my current position … seems to be guiding me on a career trajectory on the federal government side of our industry,” she said.

“One of the reasons I like to do this panel is because professional satisfaction is really important in the legal profession,” McClean said. “There are many things lawyers can do, and it’s often hard to determine what area we want to work in. It’s good to hear from alumni to help students determine what satisfaction means to them.”

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UB School of Law’s Center for Families, Children and the Courts Adjusts Outreach in Response to COVID-19

While the University of Baltimore School of Law and Baltimore City Public Schools are physically closed but still engaged in the business of education, UB Law’s Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) staff and Student Fellows are pivoting to move the work of our Truancy Court Program (TCP) to online platforms to stay close to the more than 80 children and families in our program. Here are some of the ongoing activities our team is doing on behalf of our partners and families:

  • Arion Alston, our TCP Mentor, is making weekly calls to TCP families to check in and see if there is anything specific they need. That is something he does weekly throughout the TCP sessions, and his work will continue through this crisis.
  • Katherine S. Davis

    Katherine S. Davis

    TCP Social Worker Eileen Canfield, Esq. and TCP Attorney Katherine Davis are monitoring the developing impacts of COVID-19 in Baltimore City and are working with TCP families to provide information, advice, and referrals to resources in Baltimore City for issues ranging from food distribution to eviction prevention. One of the most important skills we teach in the TCP is self-advocacy, and this is an opportunity to reinforce those lessons.

  • We have ramped up the focus of our social media postings to feature links to resources and information needed by TCP families, especially encouraging students to read and use online learning resources.
  • Our TCP Team is reaching out to the TCP schools to provide direct volunteer services, including delivering backpacks of food for families who are suffering from children’s loss of access to free in-school meals.
  • While classes at the University of Baltimore are being held remotely, CFCC Student Fellows are continuing to work with the Center’s director, Professor Barbara Babb, and are doing important work to support the TCP Team—helping our TCP Team with their activities and continuing their own research and writing on issues of truancy, school discipline, restorative practices, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

During this difficult time, the CFCC team is staying in touch remotely to share resources, discuss the needs of TCP families, and continue our work. We are collaborating with agencies throughout Baltimore City to support children and families.

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Five UB School of Law Alumni Among Those Honored in The Daily Record’s 2020 ‘Leadership in Law’ Awards

Five alumni from the University of Baltimore School of Law have been honored in the 2020 Leadership in Law awards sponsored by The Daily Record.

Kumudha Kumarachandran

Kumudha Kumarachandran

According to The Daily Record, Leadership in Law recognizes Maryland’s legal professionals – lawyers and judges – for outstanding dedication to their occupation and to their communities. A panel of legal and business leaders selected the winners.

Nominations for all the awards were received from the newspaper’s readers, in addition to area law firms, bar associations, chambers of commerce and the business and legal communities at large. Nominees were asked to complete an application that outlined their career accomplishments, community involvement and mentoring activities that they believe distinguish them as outstanding leaders in the law.

The honorees are expected to be celebrated with a dinner and an awards ceremony scheduled for May 21. Congratulations to our alumni on this remarkable achievement!

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Coronavirus Outbreak Has Created Opportunities for Cybercriminals, Says UB Law Alumnus David Katz

The current coronavirus pandemic has created vulnerabilities in information technology that have led to an increase in data security incidents, cybersecurity lawyers say.

David KatzIn a March 20 article in Law360, attorneys argue that “the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 presents countless understandable reasons for employees not to have information security at the top of their minds.” But companies need to “double down on cyberdefense during the crisis, as the shift to remote work gives hackers more ways to infiltrate networks and to take advantage of potentially panicked staff.”

UB Law alumnus David F. Katz, J.D. ’99, a partner in the privacy, cybersecurity and data management practice at Adams and Reese LLP, reports that “Businesses have been trying to position themselves as engaged with their clients and consumers in order to remain relevant and be a resource, but the effect of that is that it has created so much content and communications.

“Hackers are taking advantage of this by hiding among those communications and creating very sophisticated forms of messaging that appear legitimate,” Katz says.

Experts suggest organizations protect their assets by requiring remote workers to use company-owned equipment and sign into virtual private networks, or VPNs. Employers should be “frequently patching their VPNs with the latest security fixes and using multifactor authentication as another layer of protection, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned in an alert sent to businesses last week.”

The agency suggested that organizations should embrace a “heightened state of cybersecurity” as they expand telework options — a mindset encouraged by attorneys advising clients who are fending off cyberattacks during this global pandemic.

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Tips from a UB Law Alumna on Staying Productive and Balanced While Working from Home During This Crisis

This article was posted on LinkedIn by Courtney Geduldig, J.D. ’00, and reprinted with her permission. Geduldig is chief public and government affairs officer for S&P Global, a publicly traded company in the financial information and analytics industry. She is responsible for leading S&P’s global government relations, internal and external communications, corporate responsibility, brand, digital, creative and corporate events.

My blog post this month feels very different. Like many of my colleagues, I am writing this not only to share my thoughts with you, but to invite a dialogue and create a community.

Courtney Geduldig, J.D. '00

Courtney Geduldig, J.D. ’00

As may be the case for many of you, I’m writing this post from my “home office.” On any given day that could actually be the office in my house – but I have to share that room with my teenagers who are doing distance learning and my husband who is also working from home. On other days, when it is not my turn, my “home office” is the kitchen, the basement, the bedroom or wherever I can find some quiet. Like all of you, wherever I sit, I am acutely aware that this is likely going to be my office situation for more than a few weeks. Uncertainty is very challenging and unsettling.

S&P Global has joined many others across the U.S. and the world in encouraging “social distancing” in the face of this global pandemic, and urging our people who work in cities where we’re seeing exponential increases in illness to work remotely. We are following guidance in real time at the global, federal, state, local, and health organizational levels, and looking to make the best decisions for our people – as well as for our healthcare workers, our communities, the vulnerable and the economy.

I am fortunate to be part of a leadership team that reacted quickly to this global crisis. Our People team and CEO have already introduced and integrated flexible work as part of our culture, and our technology teams have been strengthening our infrastructure and remote capabilities long before the coronavirus emerged. That culture of agility and caring, and a focus on our people and our customers, is helping us adapt to this truly unprecedented situation as best we can, at least from a business perspective.

Read more.

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UB Law’s SBA Launches Diversity Council to Foster Inclusivity and Increase Cultural Competency

This post was written by Matthew Michael, a 3L who is director of diversity and inclusion for the SBA.

This semester, the UB School of Law’s Student Bar Association launched a Diversity Council. The Council will strive to create opportunities for dialogue and collaboration and increase the cultural competency within our law school. Our goal will be to support our student body as we work with administration, faculty and staff to embed a culture of inclusivity within the law school.

Matthew MichaelThe Diversity Council is a space where students can bring not only their complaints or concerns, but also ideas and solutions. It’s a space that will strive to be not just reactive but proactive. Further, the Council will celebrate the diversity that exists at the law school and highlight initiatives in place that foster an inclusive community.

The Council comprises 13 student representatives. These students represent about nine diverse student organizations and the at-large student body. SBA President Harita Joshi and I have worked hard to get the project going. This could not have been done without the support of law school administrators such as Mark Bell, Jernee Bramble, Dean Vicki Schultz and Dean Paul Manrique, who are heavily involved with the Council’s activities.

Currently, student representatives have been collaborating with Dean Schultz and Dean Manrique to create a diversity climate survey at the law school. This survey will be designed to engage the student body by asking about their perceptions of how the law school supports diversity and equity, and their experiences with discrimination and harassment at the institution. Ultimately, the survey will serve as a baseline of how students truly feel, which will develop a better understanding of the current culture.

We are busy planning programming for the spring that we will announce soon, but our current focus is to use this semester to engage with the student body as much as possible. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and ideas with me at matthew.michael@ubalt.edu. We look forward to engaging with you on this important topic.

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