Technologist: March 2013 Archives
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

March 2013 Archives

Does a Twitter Follow Require Due Diligence?

Does Twitter really help a lawyer snag new clients?

Some people claim that Twitter is a great way to connect with prospective clients. Others suggest that using Twitter as a lawyer marketing tool is a bunch of hooey.

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Whether you’re using social media or traditional marketing (think billboards and bus stop ads), you have to be smart about how you market yourself. If you’re using Twitter as a marketing tool, that means a little due diligence before you follow another Twitter feed.

Did you know that it (arguably) only takes a few minutes to crack through the average user's iPhone's passcode screen? There are at least two pieces of software that can accomplish this feat, one of which is free. Don't be too alarmed, however. There are some steps you can take to make your phone even more secure.

The Swedish XRY cracking program is sold to law enforcement. It uses jailbreaking and brute force to obtain the passcode. Jailbreaking essentially unlocks iOS and allows the installation of software not approved by Apple. This can include visual tweaks to iOS, pirated software, or in this case, security exploits. Brute force simply slams the phone with every possible passcode combination available. The program reportedly works on both iPhones and Android devices and can strip all sorts of data -- from keystrokes to contacts.

In 2000, the FTC noticed that this whole "Dot Com" thing was getting pretty big. Online grocery stores were starting and stopping, Amazon had already launched, and consumers were increasingly turning to the Internet for product research, reviews, and shopping. Of course, the Internet frontier presented a number of novel questions regarding advertising. Did prior regulations, like those on television and print ads, apply?

This month, 11 years after the initial rules were released, the FTC updated the rules. Why? Social media. Disclaimers are difficult in 140 characters or less. (Yes, sponsored Tweets need disclaimers.) Mobile devices are creating space constraints that require a fresh approach as well.

Last year, T-Mobile appeared to be destined to be merged into oblivion, much like Nextel and Cingular. Though the FCC nixed the deal with AT&T, T-Mobile actually appears to be doing better in the aftermath. The FCC approved a merger with MetroPCS last month and in the meantime, the magenta-hued carrier has announced a handful of changes that could make them competitive for all types of consumers — from teenagers to legal professionals.

Today, the company announced that the iPhone 5 will finally be an option. They also launched 4G LTE (high-speed data) in a number of major markets, which again, is playing catch-up to the other carriers. One would imagine that the merger with MetroPCS should help with a quick LTE rollout - the latter has already had their network in place for some time.

Those changes, along with a massive revamp of their calling plans, are exactly why consumers should give the slightly-behind carrier a second-look.

Actually, we didn’t. We’re still holding on to Windows 7 for the time being. Like many lawyers out there, we had ancient computer systems in place that lack touch screen monitors. Plus, the downtime from having to learn a new operating system, and Windows 8’s negative reputation gave us pause.

If you are a fellow holdout, prepare to get even more confused. Windows 8 launched last year. This year, Microsoft presents Windows Blue. In another six months or so, we’ll all be two operating systems behind (or three, if you are still using the immortal Windows XP like my coworker.)

Google Glass: Best Networking Tool Ever?

Last month, I mentioned that Google was hosting a competition to select mere mortals to become Google Glass pioneers. The #IfIHadGlass contest, which ended February 27, promised to reward winners with the opportunity to pay $1500 for their own Google Glass units.

Other than the fact that Glass looks cool in the promotional video, the only reason I could imagine a lawyer pining after one of these futuristic wearable computers was because -- hello! -- gadgets are fun.

But then I saw the future. Through Google Glass. And it was incredible.

On Monday, we alerted you to the possible upcoming launch of Google Keep, a note-taking addition to Google Drive that appeared to be an Evernote competitor. If so, it was jumping in to a crowded field — Evernote dominates and OneNote has a healthy share due to its inclusion with Microsoft Office. (We liked Evernote better.)

As predicted, Google went through with the launch on Android and on the web. New geekery gets us so excited that we’ve already tested it.

Should the legal masses flock from Evernote? Lets take a look.

Jammie's Jams Will Cost $222K: SCOTUS Denies File-Sharing Appeal

How much would you pay for 24 songs? Jammie Thomas-Rasset is expected to pay $222,000 for two dozen songs that she downloaded through Kazaa, a now-defunct peer-to-peer file sharing service.

Thomas-Rasset is famous in legal circles for being the first defendant to be tried before a jury in the U.S. for unauthorized file-sharing, according to Ars Technica. She asked the Supreme Court for relief against her after her case bounced through three trials and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Monday, the Supreme Court denied her petition for certiorari.

Integration. No matter how much we may begin to fear the creep of big data and companies monitoring our every move, every click, and every email, our privacy paranoia is always matched by one competing interest: convenience.

The first time Google Now automatically added directions on my Nexus 4 to an address that I had looked up earlier on my desktop computer, I was a bit creeped out. “How did my phone — what the??”

Now, it’s expected. In fact, it’s a bit frustrating when it doesn’t add directions, as I’ve come to expect and rely on it.

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

It has been ages in Internet time since the FTC provided advertising guidance in its "Dot Com Disclosures" release in 2000. Thirteen years later, cyber eons really, the FTC now has come up with new guidance in its ".com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising."

This new guidance recognizes the exponentially increasing use of mobile devices and the consequences of their limited screen size, as well as the growing prevalence of social media advertising.

You Got Served Via Facebook. Now What?

Remember when Facebook launched the original “poke” feature? Being poked by a “friend” on the social networking site felt weird and slightly dirty. Then, third-party apps took the poke to the next level and let you assault your friends with an assortment of options. You could even “throw a sheep”. Because good friends throw sheep.

Good attorneys — by contrast — use Facebook to effect service of process. Or, at least they try to.

This week, a federal district court in New York ruled in Federal Trade Commission v. PCCare247 Inc that lawyers for the Federal Trade Commission can serve legal documents on a group of defendants in India through Facebook, Reuters reports.

My relationship with Microsoft goes back to the early-90s, when as a first-grader, my stepfather taught me how to use DOS command prompts and install Windows 3.1. True old-school. The advent of the Internet and Windows 95 only solidified my relationship with Redmond; for the longest time, Microsoft could do no wrong.

Office was magnificent. Windows 95 and 98 SE were revolutionary. I even (gasp!) used Internet Explorer.

So where did Redmond go wrong? It may have began with the browser wars. Netscape killed IE in terms of speed and reliability. IE killed Netscape through questionable business tactics (and because AOL bought Netscape and filled it with bloatware, but I digress). Windows ME was a colossal failure, as was Vista.

There was also that time where I tried to sign up for Hotmail but their offensive language filters wouldn't allow me to because my last name is "Peacock".

Have you noticed the “Scroogled” campaign that has spread across the Internet, print newspapers, and billboards? In the campaign, users are warned against getting Scroogled, which we can only assume is a portmanteau of Screwed and Google.

After the holiday shopping season, the focus of the campaign shifted to Google’s privacy policy and terms of service. Scroogled now reminds you that Google scans your email and displays ads based on the text of the message.

Tools of the Trade: Treat Yourself to a Portable Printer

Paper is passé.

You no longer need a legal pad to track your favorites during jury selection. You can do doc review from your tablet. Printing cases? What is this, 1994? You don’t even have to lift a pen to record the six-minute-intervals of your work day: There’s an app for that.

But in a time where the trend is to go digital, law remains tactile. Sometimes you need to kill a tree to help your client. That’s why you should consider a portable printer.

Lawyerly folks have a few specialized concerns that most non-lawyers wouldn't have to deal with, such as client confidentiality, remaining nonjudgmental and impartial when our clients do stupid and immoral things, and of course, data security. While lots of users are concerned with privacy, security, and confidentiality, most users don't face the prospect of a malpractice suit should their chosen software suite fail.

The ABA Model Rules require that lawyers take reasonable steps towards protecting clients' data. What's reasonable? Reading this blog, and staying up to date with security concerns is a good start. Here are a couple of issues involving email providers that you should be aware of, along with a long-forgotten alternative.

Yesterday, when tinkering with the free Office Web Apps, we also came across SkyDrive. While we had heard of it, we had never taken the time to really get to know it.

So, we did what any tech geek with a company computer would do: installed another program.

Despite our extremely modest expectations, it's actually pretty darn good.

For a while there, I was truly, madly, deeply in love with Google's products. They could do no wrong. Gmail? Brilliant. Google Apps? Yes, please. Google Docs' collaborative editing? Oh yeah! Android OS and Nexus devices? But of course.

But the world wasn't with me. Google Docs, while used by a significant number of teams for project management or quick collaborative edits, hasn't become the full-fledged Word replacement that many of us hoped for. Have you ever tried to create legal briefs, motions, and memos in Google Docs? It's not easy.

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

Google has posted a “Transparency Report” that provides a range of how many National Security Letters (NSLs) it has received and a range of how many users/accounts were specified in these NSLs each year since 2009. Of course, your first question may be: What is an NSL?

An NSL is a special search vehicle by which the FBI has the authority to demand the disclosure of customer records maintained by banks, Internet Service Providers, telephone companies and other entities. When this happens, these entities are prohibited from revealing to others their receipt of an NSL. There have been reports that the issuance of NSLs has expanded significantly since the Patriot Act increased the FBI’s power to issue them.

Just when we declared the Fourth Amendment to be (near) dead, the Ninth steps in and resurrects it. 

Last month, we bemoaned the lack of privacy at border checkpoints. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the border extends 100 miles inland, meaning two out of every three Americans lived in what the ACLU coined "the Constitution-free zone." The DHS's stance on searches was that the Border Search Exception allowed them to conduct searches on anything, at any time, for any reason within that zone.

And until Friday, they were correct.

The nation mourned in unison this week as Twitter announced the end of TweetDeck’s long-neglected Android, iOS, and Adobe AIR Desktop versions of the platform. Going forward, users will have to make due with the browser or Google Chrome app versions. For many, there won’t be a difference. The mobile apps were generally useless to begin with and the Adobe AIR app, while having some features lacking in the newer versions, was a buggy, unstable, resource hog.

If you are looking for an alternative to TweetDeck that is as close to it as possible, PC Magazine has a few suggestions. Personally though, I’ve never been the biggest fan.

Should You Accept Bitcoin for Your Services?

Let's talk hypotheticals.

A client walks into your office, and says, "I want to hire you. And I will pay you 1 million Monopoly dollars for your services." You would politely decline the offer, right?

Now, let's tweak that scenario. A prospective client saunters in and offers to pay you 1 million in Bitcoin to represent him. This might actually work.

In the government's eyes, Bitcoin is no more "real" than Monopoly money, but the financial markets think that it has value. Wednesday, CNN Money reported that one Bitcoin was worth approximately $49.

So Long, TweetDeck Mobile. We Hardly Knew Ye

If you tweet to promote your practice -- or just because you like to tweet -- you've probably heard the sad news that the TweetDeck app is dead. This week, Twitter-owned app announced:

To continue to offer a great product that addresses your unique needs, we're going to focus our development efforts on our modern, web-based versions of TweetDeck. To that end, we are discontinuing support for our older apps: TweetDeck AIR, TweetDeck for Android and TweetDeck for iPhone. They will be removed from their respective app stores in early May and will stop functioning shortly thereafter. We'll also discontinue support for our Facebook integration.

The outpouring of emotion across the Internet suggests that active tweeters aren't handling the news well. (The Atlantic Wire even published a eulogy for the TweetDeck app.) Luckily, all is not lost. TweetDeck will live on in actual computers.

Beverly "Bev" Stayart has a small, and semi-embarrassing, problem. When you Google her name, one the search suggestions is "bev stayart levitra." For those who haven't been subjected to erectile dysfunction commercials, Levitra is a drug that helps men with their sexual performance. In fact, it's not just Google. At one point, she had similar issued with Yahoo!.

Rick Santorum has a similar issue. Angry citizens, practicing their right to free speech and lowbrow political criticism, created a website and anti-Santorum blog that defined his last name as a mixture of two human by-products that are not suitable for polite conversation. Imagine running for President and having that appear in your search results.

What about you, however? When was the last time you Google'd, Yahoo'd, or Bing'd yourself?

Cloud computing carries a lot of promise. With the move of software from locally-installed to remotely-stored, lawyers have redundant copies of data, can access files anywhere and on nearly any modern device, and can increase productivity.

It’s not all roses, however. Here are a couple of issues we’ve run across lately:

You all know that some of us around here are big Evernote fans. It comes in handy when moments of inspiration strike and blog topics come tumbling into our conscious minds at the least opportune moments, like when we are at the gym, or buying two buck Chuck at Trader Joe's.

Saturday morning, I had one of those moments. Inspiration struck. Ideas flowed. But when I attempted to open Evernote to jot down the ideas, however, I got a weird "authorization error" message on my tablet. My phone displayed the same error.

Is Cyberwarfare Already Happening?

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

Are international governments already engaging in cyberwarfare by hacking into each other’s computer systems? According to recent Reuters articles, at a minimum, a war of words is brewing suggesting that this already is the case.

First, it is reported that via a flaw in Adobe software, hackers were able to target government computer systems in Europe. Apparently, the systems were not actually compromised, but the specifics of the attack are being shared with NATO member states in an effort to remain ready for potential further attacks.

If you are a tech geek and a lawyer, we’re willing to bet that you are the do-it-yourself type. Aren’t we all? Why pay someone else to handle client communication or manage your web presence when you can set up your own website and return your own calls?

A wise man once warned, “You either have time or money. Not both.” True indeed. How much is your time worth? Part of becoming an adult is deciding to throw in the towel on menial battles and save your time for those juicy billable hours.

What Does CISPA Mean for Defense Attorneys?

Last year, you may have gone an entire day without Wikipedia thanks to the SOPA blackout. In January 2012, thousands of websites went dark for a day to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

And it worked. The bills died. It's like the old saying: Give a man a bill summary, and he'll promptly ignore it. Stand between a man and his access to crowd-sourced reference materials, and he'll make a call to Congress.

But SOPA and PIPA were so last year. This current threat to the Internet is CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. And it could be bad news for your clients.