Consumer DNA Tests Negate Sperm Bank Donor Anonymity

For generations, it was a basic tenet of donating sperm: Clinics could forever protect their clients’ identities. But, increasingly, donor anonymity is dead. The rise of consumer genetic tests—which allow people to connect with relatives they never knew they had, including some who never intended to be found in the first place—is forcing sperm donation clinics to confront the fact that it is now virtually impossible to guarantee anonymity to their clients. Instead, sites like 23andMe and are giving customers the genetic clues they need to identify biological parents on their own. … In a 2016 study conducted by I. Glenn Cohen, a professor of bioethics at Harvard Law School, about 29 percent of potential sperm donors said they would refuse donating if their names were put on a registry. The study suggested that prohibiting anonymous sperm donations would lead to a decline in the number of donors and that those who were willing to be identified would likely demand more compensation.

‘Sharenthood’: Navigating The Digital Age of Parenting

In her new book, Sharenthood, UNH Law Professor Leah A. Plunkett takes on the digital age of parenting and the excessive sharing of children’s images and data online. Plunkett urges adults to think before they click, to understand the risks of sharing chldren’s digital information and what some protective measures might be.  Guest: Leah A. Plunkett, Professor at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law and faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.  Her new book is Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online.

Why Uber Thinks It Can Still Call Its Drivers Contractors

Uber will not treat its California drivers as employees, the ride-hail company’s head lawyer said Wednesday, despite a new law designed to do just that. The law would create a more stringent test to separate independent contractors from full-time employees. The company’s argument rests on a premise that’s been a cornerstone since its early days: that Uber is a technology company, not a transportation one. … Elsewhere, though, courts have had little patience for this argument. In California, one federal judge called it “fatally flawed,” arguing the company is “no more a ‘technology company’ than Yellow Cab is a ‘technology company’ because it uses CB radios to dispatch taxi cabs.” “It seems very clear that Uber is a transportation company, not a technology company, despite the fact that it uses an impressively powerful piece of technology to offer transportation services,” says Benjamin Sachs, a professor who teaches labor law at Harvard Law School.

The Obamas Want ‘Higher Ground.’ Someone Got There First.

Hanisya Massey, the owner of Higher Ground Enterprises in Covina, Calif., first heard from a lawyer for Higher Ground Productions early this summer. Barack and Michelle Obama wanted to trademark their company’s name, but the United States Patent and Trademark Office had deemed it too similar to the mark Ms. Massey registered in 2017 for her computer training company. Higher Ground Productions was looking to strike a deal. … A few weeks ago Higher Ground Productions filed a petition to cancel Ms. Massey’s trademark. Rebecca Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor and an expert in intellectual property law, said in an interview that the goal of this move would be to determine whether Ms. Massey is actively and regularly using the trademark to conduct business. The Obamas’ filing starts a fact-intensive inquiry that could take years to sort out. “If there’s not sufficient use of the mark, then the registrant has no rights and the Obamas can go ahead,” Ms. Tushnet said. If there is sufficient use, she added, Ms. Massey could have a potential trademark infringement claim.

Host Violent Content? In Australia, You Could Go to Jail

… Australia, spurred to act in April after one of its citizens was charged in the Christchurch attacks, has gone further than almost any other country. The government is now using the threat of fines and jail time to pressure platforms like Facebook to be more responsible, and it is moving to identify and block entire websites that hold even a single piece of illegal content. …  Of the 30 or so complaints investigators have received so far that were tied to violent crime, terrorism or torture, investigators said, only five have led to notices against site owners and hosts. “The Australian government wanted to send a message to the social media companies, but also to the public, that it was doing something,” said Evelyn Douek, an Australian doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School who studies online speech regulation. “The point wasn’t so much how the law would work in practice. They didn’t think that through.”

The Compassionate Logic of Pricing Human Life

An op-ed by Cass SunsteinOne of the unloveliest ideas in economics goes by the name “value of a statistical life” — VSL for short. In the U.S. government, the current value of a human life is about $10 million. That means that if a highway safety regulation would save 10 lives, it is worth $100 million — a figure that must be weighed against the regulation’s cost.  Because the government’s decisions often depend on the outcome of cost-benefit analysis, the VSL is important. It helps determine whether and when people will be protected from dirty air, dangerous workplaces, unsafe drinking water and unhealthy food. A lot of people rebel against the idea of assigning a monetary value to a human life. In a provocative new book, the New York Times editorial writer Binyamin Appelbaum associates that idea with an assortment of others that he abhors, and through which economists have (in his view) contributed to rise of intolerable inequality.

Are you sure you want to post that about your kid on Facebook?

An article by Leah A. Plunkett, faculty associate at the Berman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard: If Tom Sawyer were a real boy, alive today, he’d be arrested for what he does in the first chapter of Mark Twain’s famous novel. … Today, parents, teachers, and other caregivers are in Aunt Polly’s position. Sharents make decisions to disclose digital data about children that invade traditional zones of privacy and threaten kids’ and teens’ current and future opportunities, as well as their ability to develop their own sense of self. Sharenting decisions disrupt any common understanding we may have of childhood and adolescence as protected spaces for play.

Facebook, Google Face Multi-State Antitrust Investigations

A coalition of state attorneys general launch antitrust probes into Facebook and Google. They tell us why. Guests: Phil Weiser, attorney general from Colorado. Served in the Obama Administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice. Served in President Clinton’s Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. James Tierney, founding director of, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general. Lecturer in law at Harvard Law School. Attorney General of Maine from 1980 to 1990. Tim Wu, professor of law, science and technology at Columbia Law School. Author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.” Former senior adviser to the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection and competitions issues that affect the internet and mobile markets. …

Email Records Show Louisiana Police Used N-Word, Expressed Racist Sympathies

A public records request has revealed 10 pages of emails in which Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers used racist language, including the n-word, to describe constituents and their colleagues. The records, made public Tuesday by the office of New Orleans attorney William Most, who filed the records request in conjunction with Harvard Law School, revealed two instances in which officers used the unprintable epithet back in 2014 and 2015. … In the meantime, Professor Thomas Frampton of Harvard Law School wrote in a press release: “The East Baton Rouge District Attorney should have a plan in place to notify criminal defendants and their attorneys. These sorts of emails call into question the credibility of the cases these officers have worked on.”

Voters care about the planet, but not enough to pay

Dr. Ashley Nunes is an academic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, previously he led research projects sponsored by the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation. In this article he argues that to deal with climate change, consumers must accept that there will be some form of financial cost. Climate change took centre stage in New York last week. Over seven hours (yes seven), Democratic presidential hopefuls touted their vision for how best to address rising temperatures. Former vice-president Joe Biden proposed banning new oil and gas exploration on public land, and also promised an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Bernie Sanders went further saying his administration would pursue criminal prosecution of energy companies for “any wrongdoing”. And Elizabeth Warren committed to entirely decarbonising the energy, transportation and construction industry. She subsequently challenged her counterparts to follow suit. The political impetus for tackling climate change reflects electoral reality. Two-thirds of Americans think too little is being done to address the issue. Though policy disagreements persist along party lines (some 60 per cent of Republicans think offshore drilling and coal mining should continue compared to 20 per cent of Democrats), there is broad consensus on the need for action. White House hopefuls aim to curry votes by doing just that. So does the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: President Trump recently proclaimed his love for the environment, declaring he knows, “more about (it) than most people.”