Technologist - FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog


"Metadata" entered the lexicon thanks to the Edward Snowden revelations, prompting explainers on what the heck it is. The prefix "meta" is self-referential; metadata is data about data. To put it in a less confusing way, metadata is extraneous information about data.

You've got a document, and the content of the document -- the words -- are the data. But the document also contains other information about the data, like who authored the document and when it was created, and what parts of the text are underlined. This hidden data can present an entirely separate set of ethical problems.

As expected, FCC commissioners voted 3-2 today to regulate Internet service providers (ISPs) as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. (It also voted to override state laws against municipal broadband, but that's another story entirely.)

The vote was split along party lines, with the commission's Democrats voting along with Chairman Tom Wheeler in favor of the proposal and the Republicans against -- in spite of Republican commissioners' attempt to delay the vote. The litigation will probably start immediately.

Apple suffered quite a setback Tuesday, when a federal jury handed down a $532.9 million verdict against it, in favor of patent licensing company Smartflash LLC. Smartflash claimed that Apple's iTunes software infringed on patents it held relating to downloading files from the Internet.

A look at the allegedly (or, I guess, not "allegedly" anymore) infringing patents, however, reveals that the only thing Smartflash patented is more of the same business method patents that the Supreme Court struck down in Alice v. CLS Bank.

It's the middle of the night and you're facing a deadline, or you have a "hot pen," to use Justice Ginsburg's phrasing, when suddenly your screen goes black. You have no idea if your current work has been saved, but worse still -- what about all your other work?

Computer crashes are no fun at all, and if you can't make it to an IT professional to fix the problem, you may want to try these suggestions out before you truly start panicking:

One of the big surprises at last night's Oscars was the win of "Citizenfour" for Best Documentary. Though that category often involves controversial issues, "Citizenfour" is Laura Poitras' documentary about the Edward Snowden NSA revelations. Snowden himself remains a controversial figure. Depending on your politics, he's either a whistleblower or a traitor.

Of course, without Snowden, we'd have no way of knowing just how insecure our "secure" communications channels are. Week by week, the news just keeps coming that the NSA is listening in on things every way they possibly can. Including your cellphone calls.

If you recently bought Lenovo computers for your office or firm, then you may want to make sure they're not running a vicious piece of adware that can impersonate a website's security certificate.

According to various reports, confirmed by security researchers, some Lenovo-brand computers ship with a kind of malware called "Superfish" that injects advertisements into users' browsers and impersonates security certificates, meaning the "secure" website you're visiting isn't secure at all.

At the end of January, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the Apple Watch, the vaunted smart timepiece introduced in September, would start shipping in April. The lowest-end version of the watch is the Apple Watch Sport, which rumors believe will start at about $350. The high-end 18K gold version, called Apple Watch Edition, might fetch $3,000.

Fancy lawyers will (and do) pay well over $350 for a fancy watch, but is the Apple Watch worth it? Critics have predicted the watch will be a flop, much like the Samsung Galaxy Gear. The Apple Watch, though, packs enough features into its 38 mm body that lawyers who have to have The Next Big Thing might actually find it useful.

A few years ago, Google began quite an experiment: It offered fiber optic Internet service to the good citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, for an astounding $70 per month. So, basically, for the same price you pay Comcast, AT&T, or Time Warner, you get Internet speeds that are 100 times faster.

First, the ISPs balked. Then their trade groups tried to lobby state legislatures to make it illegal to offer fiber optic service. Now, it looks like they're actually going to play ball. For a price.

Getting Serious About Cybersecurity

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

Hack attacks have been in the news for a while. But the most recent headlines seem to indicate that hackers are far outpacing security efforts to contain them.

In the last week, we have learned that a major health insurer was compromised, possibly exposing the data of 80 million health accounts. Data relating to medical patients is very sensitive, and the number 80 million is staggering in scope. And there have been indications that other health insurers might be vulnerable, meaning that 2015 could be the year of health insurance hacks.

The Justice Department, Microsoft, and Ireland are still locked in a showdown over which country's laws control the fairly common modern situation of a company's data being physically stored abroad.

Ars Technica reports that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) plans to reintroduce the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, which would limit the government's ability to access foreign-stored data.