Technologist: May 2009 Archives
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

May 2009 Archives

As expected, President Obama announced today that he would create a Cybersecurity Czar to coordinate efforts to protect the nation's digital infrastructure.  Labeling the country's data networks a "strategic national asset," President Obama also announced a report containing strategies to increase cybersecurity, although actual policies will come later.

The President's speech didn't contain any indication about who he will eventually select as Cybersecurity Czar.  He did say, however, that the office will work with the Office of Management and Budget to make sure that departments make room in their budgets for cybersecurity priorities.  The czar will also coordinate the nation's response in the event of a major cyber attack.
Collaborating on documents is a huge part of being a lawyer.  Revision after revision is made by a constantly expanding circle of reviewers, all of whom work on their own copies of the document then circulate the file to personal computers, laptops and mobile devices.  In all of that, it's easy to lose track of which changes have been accepted and which iteration of the document constitutes the final version.

Many legal document management software solutions exist that claim to solve this problem.  So many, in fact, that sifting through all the options and selecting the right one for the situation at hand can be a real chore. 

Tools for Archiving Your Twitter Tweets

Companies are getting into Twitter in a big way.  Whether they're using it for marketing purposes, customer service or even designing a TV series around it, companies have embraced the microblogging service as a novel means of interacting with the outside world.

As with any technology, however, Twitter has its pitfalls.  In a recent post in FindLaw's Strategist blog, I pointed readers to a list of Twitter dangers compiled by an attorney at Howard Rice.  Since things on Twitter happen so fast, it's possible that a company could fall into one of the dangers on the list, and then lose track of the offending tweet, before it was even aware that anything had happened.

Google's Street View: Too Revealing?

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

Google's Street View panoramic photo mapping service allows users to see street level photographs of specific locations, to take virtual walks while panning, rotating and zooming through cities around the world, and to find shops, restaurants, parks, hotels and other spots in given geographic locations.  Good, right?

Well, not so fast.  According to a recent New York Times article, a German data protection official has just threatened Google with "unspecified sanctions" if Google does not conform its Street View service to comply with strict German privacy laws (on the supposed assumption that Google is not presently in compliance).

Has the Age of the Legal Knowledgebase Finally Arrived?

In this post, guest author Jim Groff of PBWorks describes the benefits of knowledge management systems for law firms, as well as the difficulties some firms have had in convincing their attorneys and staff to adopt knowledge management solutions.  Groff argues that Web 2.0 technologies can increase the adoption of knowledge management systems, and thus the benefit to law firms, by integrating the systems with attorneys' everyday experiences.

Throughout the history of the electronic age, firms have attempted to implement legal knowledgebases.  The promise of a systematic database of the firm's proprietary expertise has always appealed to the partnership, but wave after wave of legal knowledgebases have failed, largely for the simple reason that lawyers didn't use them.
People hoping for a test case for the Gnu Public License (GPL), a common type of license in open source software, will have to wait a little longer.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has settled its lawsuit against networking equipment giant Cisco, so the case won't go to court or establish any kind of legal precedent for the interpretation of the GPL.

National Archives Missing a Terabyte of Sensitive Information

Just a day after the White House won a court victory over its massive loss of emails during the Bush Administration, the AP is reporting that The National Archive has lost a hard drive containing huge amounts of sensitive data dating back to the Clinton years.

The drive contained a terabyte of personally identifying data about White House staff and guests, according to a statement from the Archives.  No one knows if the hard drive was stolen or simply misplaced, but the FBI is currently looking into the matter.

Court Allows White House to Keep Email Records in the Dark

It looks like we won't be seeing records detailing just how badly the Bush White House screwed up their email system after all.

The D.C. Circuit has ruled that the White House Office of Administration (OA) isn't required to release the records under the Freedom of Information Act since the office doesn't qualify as an "agency" under the act. 

Tech Companies Brace for Antitrust Onslaught

The Wall Street Journal has an article in today's edition that gives a good recap of all the recent antitrust activity and its likely meaning for the technology industry. 

The article mentions that many companies formed their government-relations strategies based on the lax enforcement of the Bush administration.  Those companies are now getting ready to adjust to the new realities of a more active Obama administration. 
An obscure company known as Tune Hunter has sued some big names in technology, including Apple and AT&T, for patent infringement, claiming that their promotion of the Shazam application violates Tune Hunter's patent for a music identification system. 

Tune Hunter also sued the company that makes Shazam, as well as Samsung, Amazon.com, Napster, Motorola, Verizon and others. 

Twitter Changes Its Policy, Then Changes it Back. Maybe.

First they changed it.

And everyone freaked out.

Then they changed it back.

And everyone rejoiced.

Now it looks like they reversed the change for some things, but left the original changes in place for other things.

And everyone was confused.
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I've always thought that the French have some pretty extreme views when it comes to intellectual property, and it looks like they're in no hurry to disprove me, even if it means going against the EU parliament. 

The French parliament just passed a bill that will cut off the internet service for users who are caught illegally downloading music three or more times.  The Senate approved the bill today after the lower chamber approved the bill on Tuesday.  The new law creates a government agency to monitor internet activity for illegal downloads and step in when it detects them.
FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section about legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Fasten your seatbelts - if you love music, you absolutely must get hip to the Music Genome Project brought to you at Pandora.com.  This is the next big thing in music.

As pointed out on the web site, Pandora means "all gifted."  According to ancient Greek mythology, Pandora received a variety of gifts from the Gods, including the gift of music from Apollo.  The twist now is that Pandora.com is here to bring the gift of music to you.

9th Circuit Reopens Yahoo! Case Over False Profiles

Cecilia Barnes went through a bad break-up. 

After the relationship ended, her former boyfriend created fake profiles for Barnes on Yahoo! websites containing nude and semi-nude photographs and a solicitation for sex.  The ex also went on chat rooms posing as Barnes and directed men to these fake profiles, which also contained the contact information for Barnes' work.

Webinar: eDiscovery - Immediate and Long-term ROI

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Big Kindle Store (Tiny Legal Section)

Yesterday, I wrote about Amazon's announcement of the Kindle DX, a new version of Amazon's popular ebook reader with a larger screen and more storage.  The device allows for a better display of large-format works such as textbooks and newspapers.  It also has a native PDF reader to display documents in the popular format.

All of which pointed to some Kindle applications for lawyers and law schools.  Documents could be shared on Kindles rather than printed on paper and distributed.  Law students could give up those heavy casebooks, and lawyers could keep all their legal practice books and treatises on one handy gadget.

Kindle DX: Will Law Schools Soon See the eCasebook?

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Remember the good old days in law school, lugging around piles of huge, heavy casebooks?  Remember the multi-colored highlighters stuffed into your backpack, ready to mark important passages? 

And, most importantly, remember the light, weightless feeling of your wallet after purchasing said casebooks?

Future students of the law might not share those memories, if Jeff Bezos of Amazon has anything to say about it.
FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section about legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Last week I told you about how the Internet can provide valuable information to help people learn about and deal with disease outbreaks like the recent swine flu.  I am here to tell you now that the Internet goes even farther - as early analysis of aggregate Internet searches can be the first indicator of a disease outbreak.

Google has found that certain search terms correspond as indicators of flu activity within the United States.  As a result, Google Flu Trends has been set up to aggregate Google search data to estimate possible flu activity at a state level practically in real-time.

Mile-High WiFi Takes Off on Domestic Flights

It used to be the case that an airplane flight offered people some time to disconnect from phone calls, emails and all the other forms of communication that dominate modern life.

Those days are rapidly disappearing, however.

Join Facebook, Then Join the Army

Given that most 18 to 24 year-olds spend a large portion of their lives online, it's not surprising that the armed forces would seek to have a presence there as well.  The Associated Press has a story detailing the Pentagon's efforts to use technology to recruit young adults into the armed services.

The various branches of the military are all trying various, overlapping methods to reach young people through technology.  The Army has used online social networks like Facebook and Twitter to interface with potential recruits, and at least one three-star general has picked up the argot of the technorati and started using "friend" as a verb.

"You could friend your recruiter, and then he could talk to your friends," says Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley.