Technologist - FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog


Will Electronic Wills Be Legal Soon?

This is not your father's will.

Electronic wills, as proposed in the Florida Electronic Wills Act, are created in an electronic form, including e-signatures for testators with remote witnesses and notaries. In other words, the document will be made in a virtual world.

If Florida enacts the law, it will become the second state in the country to expressly authorize electronic wills. While technology is pushing legal innovation everywhere, not all probate lawyers are ready to adopt the electronic will just yet.

In 2013, Bitcoin was inescapable. The strange little cryptocurrency had morphed from an internet oddity, where Bitcoin-backers celebrated exchanging 10,000 Bitcoins for two (bad) pizzas, to a serious phenomenon. After a whole lot of stumbling blocks, Bitcoin has continued to grow, with the digital currency valued at over $1,000 a coin today. (That makes those pizzas worth $10 million.)

But the real story behind Bitcoin isn't Bitcoin, it turns out. It's the blockchain, the technology that makes Bitcoin possible. And it's blockchain, rather than virtual currencies, that could revolutionize everything from banking to land records. The tech could even be embraced by tech-shy lawyers.

What Legal Tech Pros Must Know About China's New Cybersecurity Law

Don't know about China's new cybersecurity law set to take effect in June?

Well, they say that what you don't know won't hurt you, but that is not true when it comes to China's cybersecurity law. According to a recent survey, about 75 percent of legal technology professionals didn't know about it. What's troubling is that only 14 percent of the respondents said they were "very concerned" about it.

Legal tech professionals should be concerned because the law requires foreign companies doing business in China to store their data on Chinese servers and to help government officials police the internet. Oh, and failure to abide by the law may result in civil and criminal penalties -- including death.

You read that right. Let's sum it up in two words: kong huang. It means "panic now."

On December 15th, shortly after appearing on 'Tucker Carlson Tonight,' Vanity Fair contributing editor and Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald checked his Twitter. What he saw sent him into a seizure.

Eichenwald, an epileptic, had been targeted by a Twitter user who messaged the journalist with a strobing .gif designed to trigger a seizure. In case the intent wasn't clear, the online assailant, under the account @jew_goldstein, included the message "You deserve a seizure." On Friday, FBI officials arrested the man suspected of being behind the attack.

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

All countries are not the same when it comes to online freedom and security issues. This is borne out by recent statistics published by Richard Patterson of Comparitech.

When it comes to the amount of freedom offered by countries on the internet, a scale of 1 to 100 is implemented, with 1 being the absolute best possible, and with 100 being the worst. While the United States comes in with a relatively low score of 18, the US is not ranked the most free. Indeed, both Iceland and Estonia have a very low score of 6, with Canada next at 16, then the US at 18. Other relatively free counties include Germany at 19, Australia at 21, Japan at 22, the UK at 23, and South Africa and Italy both at 25.

Spotlight on Laptop Security, Protecting Client Files

When a thief stole a lawyer's laptop, in retrospect the attorney partially blamed himself.

He left it in plain sight on a countertop, where the burglar could easily see it through the glass door of his house. The lawyer had also left a light on in the house to ward off a potential break-in, but saw his strategy differently when he returned home and peered through the broken glass.

"The same feature that contributed to my peaceful light a few hours before now gave a clear view of the countertop where my MacBook Air sat under what I now imagined to be a spotlight of my own making," John E. Grant wrote for Lawyerist.

In a hi-tech age, it also helps to take some low-tech precautions -- like putting a physical lock on a laptop or putting it in a secure place. Here are two tales to consider:

Are workers like Uber drivers or GrubHub deliverymen independent contractors or employees? This is one of the central questions in a growing sector of the economy, where app-based companies can help you get a ride to the airport or send someone over to do your laundry. Most of those companies treat such workers as contractors, while those workers are increasingly demanding recognition as employees.

Two major cases, driver-led lawsuits against Uber and Lyft, were set to help end the debate. But now that those lawsuits are headed toward settlement, will we ever get a definitive ruling on the issue?

Judge Approves $27 Million Lyft Settlement

A  federal judge has approved a settlement between drivers and Lyft for $27 million, but the case leaves a significant question unanswered: are the drivers independent contractors or employees?

The drivers sued the company in 2013, alleging they were employees entitled to reimbursement for expenses such as gasoline and maintenance. The company treated them as independent contractors, so they had to pay for those expenses.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said the $27 million settlement is better than $12.5 million, which he previously rejected, but it does not answer the big question.

"The agreement is not perfect," he said. "And the status of Lyft drivers under California law remains uncertain going forward."

U.S. Indicts Russian Spies for Yahoo Hack

In the aftermath of the Yahoo cybersecurity breach, there is some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that the U.S. Justice Department has indicted two Russian spies and two mercenary hackers who orchestrated the theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014. It accounts for a substantial portion of the 1.5 billion hacks that Yahoo discovered last year.

The bad news is that the indictments reveal a scheme so murky that it will take a long time for criminal authorities, lawyers, and technology experts to figure out how to deal with such attacks. The investigation alone took two years.

For the time being, it is a highwater mark in the ongoing cyberwar between U.S. and Russian interests. It is the first time the U.S. has indicted a Russian official.

If the Russian government breaks into your email, if the Chinese politburo runs off with your identity, or if Ethiopian state-sponsored spies start monitoring your every Skype call -- well, you won't get any help from the court system. On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit ruled that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction to hear claims against state sponsors of hacking.

The case involves an American-Ethiopian political activist who claimed that the Ethiopian government spied on him through malware, but the implications are far-reaching, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Not only can governments hack your laptop without legal repercussions under the court's logic, they may even get away with hacking into your car or pacemaker or even sending a drone your way.