WYSK: 04/08/22

This Week: 1. AirTag Stalking; 2. Law Inequality; 3. Organ Transplantation; 4. Facebook Sanctions

WYSK: 04/08/22

What you should know from the week of 04/08/22:

  • AirTag Stalking: Some technology is more harmful than beneficial;
  • Law Inequality: Wealth inequality is very visible, but uneven application of the law is the fundamental issue;
  • Organ Transplantation: Chinese physicians executing patients through organ transplantation;
  • Facebook Sanctions: Cambridge Analytica-era class action lawsuit againts Facebook reveals Facebook's misrepresentations.

AirTag Stalking:

Police Records Show Women Are Being Stalked With Apple AirTags Across the Country
Motherboard obtained reports of stalking, harassment, and abuse using AirTags, targeting victims of intimate partner violence.

A necessary article from Vice's Samantha Cole this week on how Apple's AirTags are used in stalking.

AirTags are a cheap and simple device sold by Apple that use Bluetooth to interact with nearby Apple devices in order to get the exact location of the tag (imagine GPS, but with nearby Apple device instead of satellites).

Police records reviewed by Motherboard show that, as security experts immediately predicted when the product launched, this technology has been used as a tool to stalk and harass women.

Motherboard requested records mentioning AirTags in a recent eight month period from dozens of the country’s largest police departments. We obtained records from eight police departments.

Across those eight PDs, there were 150 police reports mentioning AirTags. Vice notes that the victims of this stalking skew overwhelmingly female: "Only one case out of the 150 we reviewed involved a man who suspected an ex-girlfriend of tracking him with an AirTag."

Users of Apple devices are natively alerted when an unknown AirTag is consistently identified in a user's vicinity, but there is currently no native Android feature to do the same. As noted by the EFF, Apple's Android app (called Tracker Detect) can help Android users, but is not nearly as streamlined as Apple's native technology.

The harms of rapidly-deployed technology are often viewed as theoretical, but this research injects some concrete and quantitative data. While these 150 police reports obviously don't capture all of the instances of AirTag-enable stalking within the jurisdiction of these 8 police departments, it is clear that abuse of AirTags is likely on a small slice of overall use of AirTags.

However, as the report notes:

Not all cases involved exes; in some, the women were still in relationships or marriages with the men stalking them, and became physically violent when they were confronted about the AirTags.

Although the percentage of misuse may be small, the tradeoff between 'fewer lost iPhones' and 'more assault and stalking' is a losing tradeoff.

Law Inequality:

Elon Musk Schedule 13G Filing
Musk's filing of Twitter stock purchase

Elon Musk purchased 73,486,938 shares of Twitter stock this week, for about $2.9 Billion, making him the largest single shareholder of Twitter stock with a 9.2% stake in the company.

After Musk announced his stack on April 4, Twitter's stock rose by about 30% amid a frenzy of headlines and breathless reporting about Musk's potential involvement in the board as an activist investor. Of far more significance, however, is the fact that Musk's actions violated federal regulations.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has requirements of companies like Twitter:

...[S]shareholders who acquire more than 5% of the outstanding shares of that class must file beneficial owner reports on Schedule 13D or 13G until their holdings drop below 5%.

And federal regulation allows 10 days to file that Schedule 13G. However, Musk's filing shows that he waited 21 days to file on April 4 after the triggering event occurred on March 14.  

The Bezos-owned Washington Post was first and loudest to report on Musk's transgression here, which is not surprising given Musk and Bezos' antagonistic relationship.

According to BusinessInsider, Musk's delay saved him an actual $156 million:

Had he disclosed his investment according to SEC guidelines, which require a disclosure when a shareholder accumulates more than 5% of a company's stock, the remaining 4.1% he purchased would've cost a lot more money: Approximately $156 million more, according to legal and securities experts speaking with the Washington Post.

And with the 30% bump in stock price, Musk's 9.2% stake that initially cost him between $2.65 billion and $2.9 billion increased by about $800 million in unrealized gains.

In previous violations of SEC regulations, Musk has had to pay up to $20 million. All reporting on this violation suggest that Musk would be fined, at max, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In other words, violating the law was a financially prudent course of action for Musk.

Wealth inequality is an irritant, a suppurating sore in our society, but the actual underlying plague is inequality under the law.

People across the US are being sent to jail for inability to pay fines of merely hundreds of dollars. But in the upper echelons of American society, law enforcement is considered (both by those Americans and the government) as crass, inappropriate, or overly harsh, while violation of the law is considered a cost of doing business. This uneven application of the law is a huge threat to our society.

Wealth inequality is an irritant, a suppurating sore in our society, but the actual underlying plague is inequality under the law.

Just from the last week we have this example from Musk, as well as the January 6 House Select Committee expressing uncertainty over a criminal referral, even though they say:

"...it's absolutely clear that what President Trump was doing, what a number of people around him were doing, that they knew it was unlawful. They did it anyway"

The famous Will Smith/Chris Rock slap from a few weeks back also represents a situation where a very public violation of law is going without legal repercussions. The whole entertainment industry is a trove of similar examples of abuse, assault, and drug use resulting in therapy and rehab, rather than the criminal charges more common for average Americans. And Jeff Bezos' $16,000 of parking tickets showcases another clear example.

Whether the American legal system should generally provide more justice, or more mercy (or whether to two are complementary rather than contrasting) is an important debate. But regardless of your views on that, the American legal system must be more evenly applied.

Organ Transplantation:



A grim study (DOI: 10.1111/ajt.16969) conducted by Matthew Robertson—Research Fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation—and Jacob Lavee—Director, Heart Transplantation Unit, Sheba Medical Center.

The study was published this week in the American Journal of Transplantation, and notes that Chinese physicians have been removing organs like the heart and lungs from living prisoners.

The whole study is short and readable (about 6 pages long), and notes in their "Background on human organ transplantation in the PRC" section that China's organ collection and transportation program has received significant international condemnation as they rely heavily on involuntary "donations:"

From the 1980s to the present, the PRC developed one of the largest
transplantation systems in the world based primarily on organs from
prisoners, supplied by the state's security and judicial system.15-18

The study reviewed "Chinese-language medical papers published in scientific journals" in order to identify some of the procedures used for transplantation. All of their data, code, and findings are accessible online at GitHub.

According to the study, internationally accepted standards require that "brain death can only be determined on a fully ventilated patient." But the study identified 71 cases where heart or lungs were removed from patients who were not fully ventilated and therefore could not have officially been identified as brain dead.

This is more than hair-splitting and quibbling over definitions or procedure: ethical standards and international norms often hinge on specifics.

The key takeaway from this article actually relates to Ukraine. Ukraine deserves more significant international support purely for the situation that exists today, having been invaded by Russia in a criminal war of aggression. However, Ukraine must receive more significant support because of the situations that are going to arise tomorrow. Every day that Russia is allowed to commit war crimes in Ukraine and face merely financial penalties is a day that brings another atrocity closer.

When the international community turns a blind eye to China's human rights abuses, or says it is simply not worth it to interfere in China's genocide in Xinjiang or execution of prisoners (recall that hundreds of thousands or millions of Uyghurs are imprisoned in China just for their ethnicity) through organ removal, we make additional wars and crimes more likely.

Facebook Sanctions:


I often write about how Facebook is an untrustworthy company. This week produced some new documentation of that claim.

Facebook is being sued in "In re: Facebook, Inc. Consumer Privacy User Profile Litigation" in the District Court of Northern California. The litigation is a class action lawsuit, arguing that Facebook improperly shared or failed to protect user data (e.g. Cambridge Analytica).

Facebook has been dodging this litigation for years, according to this request for sanctions filed in the District Court this week. Facebook's behavior has been so egregious that the Court itself directed the plaintiffs to file a motion about it:

The Court has directed Plaintiffs to consider monetary sanctions not only against Facebook, but also against individual attorneys. After considerable reflection, Plaintiffs ask that the Court impose monetary sanctions on Facebook; the firm representing it in this action, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP; and Facebook’s lead lawyer from Gibson Dunn, Orin Snyder

The general document itself lays out many times where Facebook and their attorney behaved in an untrustworthy manner, but the section titled "Factual misrepresentations and frivolous legal arguments" provides a clear walkthrough of times where Facebook has lied:

Misrepresentations: As of February 3, Facebook had produced a total of 50 ADI documents, J. Case Mgmt. Statement at 5, out of an investigation that by Facebook’s own count involved “millions of apps,” Ex. 24 at 9:2. At the February 10 conference, though, attorney Snyder stated that Facebook would be able to produce all ADI materials “within one month, if not sooner.” Ex. 28 at 13:4–5. The Court responded that they needed be produced “21 days from today.” Id. at 13:10. “That’s fine, your Honor,” replied attorney Snyder. Id. at 13:11.

These statements cast grave doubts on past representations. When Facebook moved for reconsideration of the Special Master’s initial ADI order, counsel claimed that producing all ADI communications would be wildly burdensome. One of Facebook’s attorneys claimed, for example, that producing the communications would “delay the case for at least another year while we collect, review, and analyze millions of additional documents.” Ex. 24 at 21:17-20. Facebook's counsel also stated that it had taken 300 attorney hours to collect and review communications associated with just six of the apps investigated in the ADI, out of some 32,000 relevant apps. Mot. for Recons. at 4, 8 (Dec. 15, 2021); Ex. 24 at 8:25–9:1; see also Mot. for Recons. at 8–9 (Jan. 19, 2022). Assuming that the attorneys are working 50 hours a week, 300 attorney hours represent six weeks of full-time work by one attorney or one week of full-time work by six attorneys. Extrapolating 300 hours of work out to 32,000 apps yields an estimate of 1.6 million attorney hours required to collect and review ADI communications. This would require 100 attorneys working 50 hours a week for about six years, with no breaks. This description cannot have been accurate given the assurance at the February 10 conference that the ADI documents could be produced in 21 days.

Again, these sanctions are nominal (see "Law Inequality" above!), with a total proposed cost of $854,195.72 ($196,288.72 plus $657,907, if you want to look for the numbers in the document) for years of misrepresentation in this case alone.

Interest piqued? Disagree? Reach out to me at TwelveTablesBlog [at] protonmail.com with your thoughts.

Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash