June 22, 2020

Gowri Ramachandran: Protecting the 2020 Election from COVID19 with

‘Protecting the 2020 Election from COVID19’ with (Ep. 235) Protecting the 2020 Election from COVID 19 - Gowri Ramachandran, Counsel in the Election Security program at the Brennan Center joined Joe Miller. Bio Gowri Ramachandran is Counsel...

Protecting the 2020 Election from COVID19 with Gowri RamachandranGowri Ramachandran

‘Protecting the 2020 Election from COVID19’ with Gowri Ramachandran (Ep. 235)

Protecting the 2020 Election from COVID 19 - Gowri Ramachandran, Counsel in the Election Security program at the Brennan Center joined Joe Miller.


Gowri Ramachandran is Counsel in the Election Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. She is currently on leave from her position as professor of law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. At Southwestern, she taught courses in constitutional law, employment discrimination, critical race theory, and the Ninth Circuit Appellate Litigation Clinic, which received the Ninth Circuit’s 2018 Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award.

She received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Yale College and a master’s degree in statistics from Harvard University. While in law school, she served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. After graduating from law school in 2003, Ramachandran served as law clerk to Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Billings, Montana. After a fellowship at Georgetown University Law Center, she joined the Southwestern faculty in 2006.


Gowri Ramachandran, How to Keep the 2020 Election Secure Brennan Center for Justice (2020), https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/how-keep-2020-election-secure (last visited Jun 21, 2020).

Edgardo Cortés et al., Preparing for Cyberattacks and Technical Problems During the Pandemic: A Guide for Election Officials (2020), https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/preparing-cyberattacks-and-technical-problems-during-pandemic-guide (last visited Jun 21, 2020).

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News Roundup      

Lawmakers step up efforts to rein in facial recognition companies’ work with law enforcement

IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon announced plans to scale back the sale of their facial recognition technologies to law enforcement. But while those companies are some of the largest providers of such technologies, smaller competitors continue to supply police departments, and Amazon has only stated that it would stop selling facial recognition technology for 12 months as it waits for Congress to write new legislation. Many important studies have repeatedly demonstrated how these technologies produce biased outcomes when it comes to women and people of color. One Zero also reported last week that technology companies also make substantial donations to police organizations.

WSJ: How federal authorities use marketing, GPS data to pursue suspects

In 2018, the Supreme Court decided Carpenter v. U.S., in which it held that law enforcement needs a search warrant before obtaining cell tower location data from carriers when they pursue suspects. But in an exclusive report, the Wall Street Journal explains how the police now circumvent Carpenter using marketing data – which is anonymized but when correlated with other factors can reveal the personal identity of a suspect. These law enforcement agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, have concluded those data don’t fall within the scope of data for which the U.S. Supreme Court requires probable cause per Carpenter since the data doesn’t come from cell phone data and, instead, comes from geolocation data. Venntel, the subject of the Wall Street Journal report and company that provided marketing data to the IRS, claims its data is “pseudanonimized”. It will be interesting to see how courts and lawmakers consider how such pseudanonimized data should be treated in light of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Facebook struggles to respond to backlash over its content moderation policies and calls for boycotts by civil rights organizations

Facebook is still under fire for failing to adequately moderate misinformation posted by the president. Several Civil Rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change and others called on advertisers to boycott Facebook after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to even flag misinformation Trump posted a couple of weeks ago saying mail-in ballots pose a risk for voter fraud, a claim that is unsubstantiated. Several research reports by prominent institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have concluded mail-in ballots produce no meaningful advantage for either political party.

Amidst the backlash, Facebook announced plans last week to invest $200 million to support Black-owned businesses and organizations. The company also announced an effort to register 4 million voters.  

Trump tests waters with new social media violations

President Trump continued to defy social media boundaries with more misleading and hateful content last week. On Thursday, the Trump campaign posted an ad containing the upside down, red triangle Nazi’s used to identify communists, socialists and liberals in concentration camps.    Facebook and Twitter removed that ad. On Friday, the president tweeted a manipulated video appearing to show a white child running after a black child with a fake lower-third saying “terrified toddler runs from racist baby”. Twitter initially flagged the tweet but ultimately took it down. Both Twitter and Facebook also announced last week they’ve seen foreign actors evolve their social media propaganda efforts but as yet no coordinated efforts by state actors to manipulate election outcomes.

France upholds $56 million fine against Google for privacy violations

After an 18-month appeal effort, Google has lost against French regulators who found the company violated Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by failing to make it easy for users to determine how the company used their data, notice which required users to go through several steps, according to the French Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, which upheld the $56 million fine it levied against Google back in January of last year.

Netflix Founder and CEO Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would be investing $120 million in Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Government relations pros blast Pinterest for discriminating against them for being black women

Two prominent government relations pros, both of whom are African American women, put Pinterest on blast last week for allegedly having a toxic work environment that is hostile to black employees. Ifeoma Ozoma reported on Twitter that a white male inside Pinterest doxed her, sharing her private information publicly, and failed to give her a pay raise. She also said that, during her performance review, her manager criticized her for being outspoken during discussions around the company’s new policy to stop advertising slave plantation—according to Ozoma, the manager accused her of not “both-siding” the issue. Ozoma also noted that her replacement, Aerica Banks, also a black woman, also resigned.