Technologist - FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog


FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Selfies -- are you a fan or a hater? Either way, selfies may soon not only be personal, but they may also have a business function. Stay with me here.

Yes, there are people who take photos of themselves on their smartphones on practically a constant basis so that we can see them in every life activity imaginable on social media or mobile-friendly blogs. And yes, this can be annoying, even if some of these photos might actually be interesting if we were not otherwise inundated by mundane selfie photos.

It's a bad time to be a pickpocket or mugger. Starting this July, all smartphones sold in California must come with a kill switch -- software that allows the phone's owner to disable the device should it be stolen. This makes the phones more difficult to resell and less of a target for thieves.

The smartphone kill switch may already be working. Smartphone thefts have dropped drastically in the last year, which some advocates attribute to the growing prevalence of the kill switches.

If your firm doesn't have a blog, it's well in the minority. More than 80 percent of AmLaw 200 firms publish blogs. Some of them publish multiple ones. Fox Rothschild, for example, takes the Danielle Steele approach to publishing, putting out blog after blog after blog. The total now? Thirty nine.

For all the BigLaw blogs out there, though, more than a few have failed to adapt to mobile traffic. Not being mobile-friendly is costly, negatively affecting both views and search results. Here's what you can learn from their failures:

Uber has had a rough go of it recently. Two weeks ago, the California Labor Commission ruled that at least one driver was an Uber employee, not the independent contractor Uber had claimed. Last week, taxi drivers in Paris, where Uber is largely illegal, staged violent protests against the company, followed quickly by the arrest of Uber executives. The latest thorn in the ride-hailing app's side? Perhaps the Federal Trade Commission.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a formal legal complaint with the FTC, alleging that Uber's updated business practices and privacy policy violate consumer's privacy. EPIC is asking the FTC to investigate Uber for unfair and deceptive trade practices and to enjoin the implementation of the company's new policy.

Perhaps you've heard of a firewall. If you're an architect, you might be thinking of the actual fire-proof walls used to stop the spread of blaze from, say, apartment to apartment. If you're pretty much anyone else, a firewall is one of the many network settings you may have tinkered with when configuring your Internet. A computer firewall is a network security system that controls incoming and outgoing traffic, creating a barrier between your internal network and the flaming, virus-filled Internet.

Firewalls have been common since the 90's. Which is why it might be surprising to learn that an "inventor" patented firewalls in 2000. Though he let his patent expire, it has recently been picked up by a patent troll, who is using it sue pretty much everyone who sells products related to network security.

Mitigating Cyber Risks

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Let's face it, the Internet can be a scary place from a risk standpoint. Indeed, it seems that on practically a daily basis we hear about a massive security breach and the theft of sensitive and personal data.

Have you heard about The Cloud? Of course you have. For the last five years or so, cloud computing -- using remote servers, accessible via the Internet, to store, manage and process data -- has been everywhere. There's cloud-based apps, cloud-based accounting, even cloud-based operating systems of sorts.

What there hasn't been much of is cloud-based eDiscovery. Two new start ups are focused on changing that, offering electronic discovery services built from the ground up to take advantage of the scalability, processing power, and lower cost of cloud computing.

Michelle Lee took over as head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office three months ago and has already started to effect changes. Lee, who was the first woman to hold the position of USPTO Director, promised to use her experience in tech, science, and the law to change the way the Office operates.

Some of those changes are starting to go into effect, as the patent office begins to update its technology, implement open data initiatives, and to reach out beyond Washington, D.C.

Big Everything

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

We keep hearing about what is going to be "the next big thing." That concept seems ever-illusive, perhaps because there has been a constant state of "bigness," if I may call it that, since long before humankind developed the notion of time.

I was fortunate enough last week to participate in the immersive, five-day Big History Institute at Dominican University of California. Scholars from around the country convened to contemplate, share and discuss big history issues, past, present and even future.

Does Google Earth have a secret identity as a crime solver? Apparently. The digital eye-in-the-sky has been revealing street crime for years, from petty drug deals to apparent murders. The program has also been used to investigate illegal deforestation, housing violations, and even tax fraud.

With all the evidence that can be found on Google Earth, one might be surprised to learn that courts have not always treated it as admissible. That might change, though, as the Ninth Circuit gave Google Earth its stamp of approval last Thursday.