Technologist - FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog


The private search doctrine's applicability to computers will probably make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, thanks to a recent Sixth Circuit decision in United States v. Lichtenberger.

After Aaron Lichtenberger was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender, his girlfriend hacked into his computer, found images of child pornography, and notified the authorities. Police obtained a warrant to search the computer, finding more pornography, but a federal district court -- and eventually the Sixth Circuit -- agreed that the evidence should be suppressed.

Up to 1.1 million customers may have had their data stolen when CareFirst, a Blue Cross Blue Shield health plan, was hacked on Wednesday. According to the company, the hackers gained access to information such as names, birthdays and emails, but not private medical or financial information. The incident makes CareFirst the third large health insurer this year to have lost customer data to hackers. Across the three, more than 90 million customers may have had their personal information compromised.

With each breach, a new handful of potentially costly class-action lawsuits are filed. When Anthem compromised millions of customers' information, more than 50 class actions were filed in under a month.

What's a lawyer to do?

An important section of the Patriot Act is set to expire June 1st. Without a renewal from Congress, that could mean the end to the NSA's collection of bulk phone metadata. The surveillance program was recently ruled illegal by the Second Circuit and has lost support in the House. Yet, Senate Republicans remain strongly supportive.

As the Senate considers whether to renew the Patriot act, working through an old fashioned filibuster, the question remains: what will happen to the NSA's phone data collection program?

When it comes to taking and organizing client notes, the physical notebook went out of style long ago. There's just too many benefits to having electronic notes, which you can sync across devices or search for specific information.

If you're just looking for basic word processing, using Word or even Google Drive for your notes is fine. But you'll have to go through a few extra hoops if you want to really take advantage of electronic notes. Fortunately, there's plenty of note-taking software that's already done the work for you. So, which one is best?

Several years ago, Facebook users became aware that the social media giant could track them across websites that used Facebook tracking cookies. Some users became upset, but Facebook assured them that these cookies could track Facebook users only while they were logged in to Facebook.

Except that turned out not to be true, either. Eventually, Facebook closed the glitch (was it a glitch?) allowing sites to track users' activity even while they were logged out of Facebook. Now, from Belgium, comes news that you're being tracked even if you're not a member of Facebook!

Drones, Drones Everywhere ...

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

What are we going to do with all these drones? Indeed, drones are coming at us from all sorts of angles. As a consequence, law firms are even coming up with practice groups devoted to the legal issues presented by drones.

Let's explore just a few of the many issues that may arise from drones.

Tech folks often have their eye on the future, but when it comes to dealing with issues of culpability and liability in computing, some are arguing that it's time to start looking to the past.

When it comes to holding those responsible for complex systems accountable when something goes wrong, at least one Mircoserf suggests that we bring bring back medieval law. The legal revival isn't quite the "if she floats, she's a witch!" attribution of blame, however.

The Department of Justice has withdrawn its appeal of a district court ruling that excluded evidence gathered by a webcam nailed to a utility pole across the street from a suspected drug dealer's house. After the district court for the Eastern District of Washington found that the surveillance violated the defendant's constitutional right to privacy, prosecutors appealed.

The DOJ had argued in earlier filings that "the webcam on a pole" surveillance was legal, since it was similar to an officer's observations on the street. Call it the "bootleg Robocop" theory of surveillance. They may no longer stand by that contention, however, having abandoned their appeal in a brief filing with the Ninth Circuit yesterday.

DRM has reached the farm, according to an article published last month in Wired magazine. John Deere, long-time manufacturer of indispensable farm equipment, argued against a proposed exemption to copyright law made on behalf of John Deere equipment owners -- excuse me, licensees.

Farmers want the legal authority to circumvent software restrictions built into John Deere equipment. John Deere says that's not cool.

Cyber Risks Are Here and Now

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

The Internet provides an abundance of benefits in so many aspects of our lives. We have information at our fingertips. We are in touch with our family and friends in myriad new and different ways. We can make purchases from our computers and our phones, without the hassle of having to go to out to the store. And the list of benefits go on and on.

But that is not the end of our story. No, indeed. The Internet, unfortunately, also creates many risks and liabilities for us as well. Recent data suggest the following disturbing trends.

The vast majority of emails are not legitimate; most are spam.