Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

June 2013 Archives

Judge Upholds Uncontested Will Written on Android Tablet

A probate court in Ohio addressed a novel issue of law earlier this week when it had to decide whether a will, drafted on a tablet, (no, not that kind of tablet, this kind) was valid under Ohio state law.

Javier Castro was told by doctors at the Mercy Regional Medical Center that he needed a blood transfusion to survive. As a Jehovah’s Witness, he declined treatment. Before his death, however, he told two of his brothers that he wished to draft a will. Lacking pen and paper, the brothers drafted the will on a Galaxy Tablet. Later that day, Castro signed the will, using the tablet’s stylus, with his brothers serving as witnesses, reports The Chronicle-Telegram.

SpiderOak: Encrypted Zero-Knowledge Cloud Storage With Drawbacks

Companies get hacked. Or receive data requests from the NSA. Or scan your data for purposes of displaying relative advertising. It's all bad.

These scenarios are all even more problematic for lawyers with sensitive client information. The solution, it seems, is a heavily encrypted, zero-knowledge cloud storage system, such as SpiderOak.

Google Report Reveals Malware, Phishing on 'Safe' Sites

In an attempt to provide greater transparency, Google has released data on malware and phishing scams as part of its Safe Browsing program.

As security reporter Brian Krebs added, the data included in this report seems to suggest that malware “tends to show up in legitimate sites” more than the traditional “warez” or piracy sites, reports Mashable.

How does Google’s Safe Browsing information affect your browsing?

Study: The Bigger Your Device, The More Assertive You Become

No, that is not a euphemism.

We have many choices for electronic devices, from iPhones to full-sized iPads, and even desktop computers, but did you know that the choice of device may actually affect how assertive you are?

That’s right, according to research by Harvard Business School professors Maarten Bos and Amy Cuddy, those of you with a 3.5 inch iPhone screen are apparently more timid than someone sporting a 23 inch iMac.

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

Back in the day, President Bill Clinton touted the development of the "information superhighway," and Vice President Al Gore not entirely accurately was reported to have stated that he had invented the Internet.

Since then, the Internet has exploded and grown exponentially. There have been many benefits, such as the potential to purchase a tremendous number of goods and services online, as well as the ability to communicate freely via social media portals such as Facebook and Twitter.

Bitcoin Foundation Gets Cease-and-Desist From Calif. Regulators

California telling the Bitcoin Foundation to cease-and-desist from changing money is like us telling California to stop being such a fiscally responsible and socially conservative state.

The Bitcoin Foundation does not trade, change, or exchange money for third parties. The closest thing to currency exchange that the organization does is to convert its own donated Bitcoins, via third-party exchange floors such as Mt. Gox, to U.S. dollars for purposes of spending -- such as when the Foundation held a convention in San Jose, California, last month.

Gadgets in Flight, Takeoff Delight? FAA Nearing New Rules

Good news for the productivity-obsessed (or Candy Crush fans): the FAA is close to issuing new rules for consumer electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. While you (likely) will still be banned from making phone calls, you may be soon be able to continue editing that memorandum or reading our blogs through in-flight Wi-Fi, reports The Wall Street Journal.

That's right. Reading FindLaw Blogs for Legal Professionals during takeoff and landing and taxiing. We can't think of any better way to spend one's time while on a plane

Aaron's Law Introduced Today, Revises Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Today, after input from Reddit and the Internet-at-large, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, along with Sen. Ron Wyden, will finally introduce Aaron's Law to Congress, reports Wired. The law, if passed, would clarify the scope of CFAA crimes to exclude violations of terms of service and instead would require a breach of security, either virtual (such as passwords or encryption cracking) or physical. It would also reduce potential penalties by removing redundant provisions.

Ironically enough, the revision to the the oft-criticized pre-Internet computer "hacking" law may not have excluded the acts undertaken by the late Aaron Swartz. Despite that, it seems to be a much-needed step towards modernizing our nation's cyber-security laws.

Google Challenges NSA Gag Order, Cites 1st Amendment

Playing PR catch up, Google challenged the gag order placed on them by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) so that they could show Google users how many national security requests Google receives.

In a request for declaratory judgment filed on Tuesday with the FISA court, Google sought permission to release the aggregate number of requests FISC makes of Google and how many users are affected, reports The Washington Post.

Google is not the only company seeking to mollify users with data request numbers, but their request may be the most specific to FISC yet.

BYOD: A More Efficient Choice for Your Firm's Technology?

In the days of yore, every person in a law firm would have the same company-issued devices: a Windows laptop and the corporate staple of smartphones - the BlackBerry. Companies had to worry about supporting one computer and one smartphone. For the IT department, this was absolute nirvana.

Laptop broke? Here, take an exact replica.

BlackBerry lost? Here, take an exact replica while we remotely wipe your device.

Having an issue with a driver? Guess what? We all are. It'll be fixed in a jiffy!

Many firms and businesses still run on this monotonous model. After all, not only does it theoretically make things simpler for the IT department, but inertia is a powerful force in corporate policies. Why then, are other law firms and companies choosing to adopt "bring your own device" (BYOD) policies?

Microsoft Releases iOS Office App; We Yawn Repeatedly

Congratulations, less-than 18.2 percent of America! You now have access to mobile Microsoft Office, assuming you also want to pay a $100 per year subscription cost!

Yep. And that's further proof that Microsoft is losing its way.

First, the company steadfastly squandered its position in the mobile phone market, allowing Apple and Android to achieve a de facto duopoly. (Yes, Windows Mobile pre-dated the two mobile OSes. People actually used it too.). Then, when their mobile OS market share plummeted from 47 percent to three-guys-in-Redmond, they refused to release Microsoft Office for other systems.

Ten Mostly Law-Related TED Talks Worth Listening To

When was the last time you heard a truly inspirational, intellectual talk? We’re talking about one of those lectures, talks, or speeches that makes you reevaluate your entire thought process on a certain subject. Maybe that talk shifts your views on a fundamental issue, like the death penalty. Or maybe it provides practical advice for leading your law firm or practice group into prosperity.

When we were students, we’d be limited to school-selected speakers, leaving us asleep and drooling on the desk. Even in practice, how often do you get to hear one of this brilliant minds illuminate a topic? Once a year? Twice?

Can Tech Giants Be Sued For PRISM Involvement?

There have been nine tech giants accused of involvement in the PRISM surveillance according to the information provided by the now out of the jurisdiction Edward Snowden: AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo, and YouTube.

All of these companies who were linked to the PRISM program, according to The Washington Post, have staunchly denied involvement or even knowledge of the surveillance, which seems odd in light of federal law which immunizes them from suit based on their involvement.

Apple WWDC Recap for Lawyers: A 500 Word Primer

Developer conferences are like geek crack. No matter how many times we try to avoid looking up updates, we scratch our neck like an addict going through withdrawal and then furiously click over to one of many liveblogs. Apple is releasing new laptops! Apple has redesigned iOS and OSX! And look at that odd, trash-can looking monstrosity that will replace the Mac Pro.

We won’t even get into the E3 conference that happened yesterday, except to say that if you’re purchasing an Xbox One or PS4 for your kids this year, note that the more-expensive Xbox One may prevent them from playing used games. Bummer.

Anyway, back to the office tech …

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

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are not hypothetical possibilities. Indeed, they have been bringing down Web sites for quite some time.

Most recently, two men in Britain have been sent to prison for their DDoS attacks perpetrated on PayPal and other sites, according to InformationWeek.

PRISM, the Other Beast: What is It?

The other monster has reared its ugly head, and the (top, top) secret is out: PRISM is a real thing. Just as you thought you may have been inundated with too much news about the National Security Agency (NSA) and Verizon scandal, The Washington Post and The Guardian both decided to drop a second bomb on us late last week, revealing information from a leaked Powerpoint slide presentation. This one doesn’t involve metadata from phone records, but content collected from Internet giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and other sites that you likely use on a daily basis.

Suddenly, the Verizon debacle looks like small(er) potatoes.

But, what is there to know about PRISM, exactly? Not only is there a wealth of information out there, but there are layers and layers of accusations and denials to go with it. News updates on this matter happen every second. Now, even a whistleblower has been confirmed. Here are some basics that break it down:

NSA Scandal: More Thoughts and What's Next?

By now, you're probably familiar with the National Security Administration's domestic phone surveillance scandal. If you aren't, we covered it yesterday.

Though lawmakers are mostly parrying inquiries by stating that the domestic surveillance program has been ongoing for over seven years and is legal per the Patriot Act, such non-answers won't suffice in the long-term. One would imagine with the nation now aware of the extent of the NSA's domestic spying, that the status quo won't hold.

Three Things to Know About the NSA Verizon Surveillance Scandal

When the news of the latest, and some might argue greatest, overreaching surveillance effort by the U.S. government broke, my initial response was a half-yawn. Phone records? Whoo-hooo. The NSA will now know exactly how lonely my life is.

Actually, they won't. Verizon is too dang expensive.

Then we learned that more than phone numbers were involved. The NSA has been subpoenaing metadata, from phone serial numbers to GPS locations. This is more than "how many times did he call Pizza My Heart?" This is every call, every GPS location, and even every cell tower that your phone connects to, transferred to the government's computers daily.

This isn't 1984. This is Enemy of the State.

Apple Infringed on Samsung's Patent: USITC

Apple violated Samsung’s patents on older model iPhones and iPads according to a U.S. trade agency opinion issued Tuesday, a violation which has prompted a ban on sale of most older model iPhones and iPads.

In an order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), the federal agency barred the import and sale of the AT&T models of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G, reports Reuters.

This ruling is the latest judicial missive in what has been a protracted and costly legal battle between the two electronic giants, but who will win?

Is Lawyer an Accidental Investor or a Patent Troll?

Before 2007, John McAleese may have had the "accidental investor" defense if anyone ever questioned his involvement  with the patent-trolling company suing one of his firm's biggest clients. His wife was involved with FlatWorld Interactives, a company that patented gesture-based control of a touchscreen device. According to Ars Technica, they even made attempts to commercialize the concept, but when Apple's iPhone was revealed in 2007, the company's plans turned to the courtroom.

What's the problem? They do, after all, own the patent. It is their right to enforce it. And this doesn't seem to be some shell company that merely exists to purchase dormant patents in order to bring suit (though they did seek a reissue of the patent in 2007 to "tailor it more closely to iPhone claims" and tried to sell it to trolls).

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

The imposition of duties on the global trade of technology products is significant from a monetary standpoint.

However, Reuters reports that a potential agreement among the United States, China, the European Union and almost two dozen other countries that could eliminate billions of dollars of such duties might be achieved as soon as within in the next two months.

28 Days Later: Google Reader Shutdown, RSS Readers Explained

Earlier this year, Google announced that its once-popular Reader, which acted as an aggregator for users' favorite blog feeds, was going to be retired as of July 1. Some pulled at their hair in frustration and dressed in black. Others lit a candle and prayed for a last-minute stay of execution.

With 28 days to go, there has been no stay. The life of Google Reader appears destined to end, and for those of you in a long-term relationship with the RSS feed reader, it's time to move on.

If you haven't tried an RSS feed reader, maybe now is the time to do so. Since the announcement earlier this year, dozens of new and improved alternative readers, hoping to steal Google's market share, have launched. A once Google-dominated and dormant field is now immensely competitive.