Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

February 2014 Archives

Last November, we posted about one of the first driving incidents related to Google Glass, when Google Glass Explorer Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for wearing Glass. While she received a citation for driving a car with a video screen in front of her, under California V C section 27602 Television, a San Diego court later dismissed the ticket for lack of proof that Abadie was operating the glasses while driving, reports The Associated Press.

States Proposing Google Glass Bans While Driving

Now, some states are beginning to take note and are proposing legislation that would outright ban Google Glass while driving, reports Ars Technica. A total of eight states have proposed legislation that would ban Google Glass, reports Reuters, and they are: Missouri, Delaware, Illinois, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey and Wyoming.

What's Wrong With Bitcoin? Mt. Gox and Everything Else

On February 7, a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks hit a number of Bitcoin exchanges, causing many to shut down temporarily. The DDoS attacks repeatedly pinged their servers with fake transactions, overloading their servers' abilities to processes legitimate transactions.

Mt. Gox, (formerly) the world's largest exchange, never reopened, and probably never will. At this point, due to a "malleability" leak in their transactions, the company suspects that 744,400 bitcoins, presently worth about $400 million, have been stolen from the company and may never be recovered, leaving investors in the backed-by-nobody currency with little recourse.

What's the state of Bitcoin? Shaky, at best.

Smartphone Roundup: iOS Security Flaw, Blackphone, BlackBerry Q20

Smartphones: the new geek crack.

What's the latest and greatest news in smartphones? World Mobile Congress is happening right now, and the news has mostly been meh, with companies releasing low-end smartphones to target the entry-level and third-world markets. Those Nokia Android rumors we passed along? True, unexciting, and still confusing -- Microsoft is  undercutting itself and its Windows App Store with low-end Androids.

But, in news more relevant to legal professionals, there has been some scintillating news for the security conscious and the QWERTY-obsessed. Plus, security researchers just found another iOS security flaw -- that's two in a single week.

Are Lawyers Really Flocking to Macs, iPhones, and iPads?

Yes. Maybe. We don't know!

Microsoft shot itself in the foot. Windows 8 was a disaster meant for touch screens, and not coincidentally, since its release, the PC market has tanked. Yeah, mobile devices, tablets, yadda yadda, but look at operating system market share in terms of percentages: Windows 8 is lagging behind freaking Windows XP. That's bad.

Law firms need computers. And since they aren't buying Windows 8 PCs, are they going Mac?

Security Warning: All Apple Devices Affected; Avoid Public Wi-Fi

Man-in-the-middle.

It may sound like a child's game, but a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack is where a hacker intercepts secure encrypted data by pretending to be a trusted end point, such as one's email service, then copies or modifies the data before passing it on.

These attacks are typically very difficult to pull off -- unless the hacker is targeting an iPad, iPhone, iMac, MacBook, or any other Mac OS X or iOS device.

Above the Law and Good2BSocial recently conducted a study of law firms, mainly large ones, to determine how effective the law firms' use of social media is. The findings? Not so rosy, reports CMS Wire.

The methodology was simple: assign points to each firm based on the firms' social media reach and engagement. As a starting point, the 50 largest U.S. law firms, as identified by The American Lawyer, were surveyed, as well as readers of Above the Law.

The study resulted in 10 findings that could be summarized in three categories: (1) large firms; (2) small firms; and (3) suggestions for making social media use more effective.

Three Viable Alternatives to iOS and Android

Can't afford a $650 iPhone? Sick of Google data-mining and monitoring every step you take, every Tweet you make?

The smartphone market in the United States is a generally seen as a two-man race, with Apple's iOS and Google's Android as the two big ecosystems with all of the apps. Go to any store that sells smartphones and you'll see iPhones, Samsung Galaxies, and a boatload of other Android devices, with a few Blackberries and Windows Phone 8 devices collecting dust in the corner.

Maybe you should take a closer look in that corner. With recent and rumored updates, the also-rans may be viable choices for the app-hungry.

Let's Reinvent the Court Opinion: 4 Ideas

Here is an opinion from 1923: Meyer v. State of Nebraska. Here is an opinion from 2013: Shelby County v. Holder.

Other than the addition of a syllabus at the beginning, and a few more headings, case law hasn't changed a bit since 1923. Does that seem strange to anyone else?

If you were to reimagine case law, what would it look like? Here are a few ideas.

More On MOOCs: Could be Useful for Lawyers and Law Students

Last month, we talked MOOCs: Massive Online Open Courses. Yale announced that it would offer a Constitutional Law course for free through Coursera and it piqued our interest, as it seems like a good way for John Q. Public to brush up on his rights, and for pre-law folks to sample legal curriculum before dropping six figures on a JD.

(Sidebar: The early reviews, by the way, are the course is good, but the professor is dry. Welcome to law school.)

Yale's venture into free online education got us thinking: how else could MOOCs be useful, specifically for lawyers? Here are a few ideas:

WordPress in One Hour for Lawyers? Good Tips, Wrong Medium

Is it possible? Can someone create a professional-looking law firm website and blog in an hour?

No. It's not. And that's not what WordPress in One Hour for Lawyers is all about. The book promises to teach you the basics of launching a WordPress site in an hour, but you'll need to dedicate an entire afternoon, plus regular time for updates, blog posts, and other maintenance, if you want a quality site to represent your firm.

Does the book deliver? Read on to find out:

Is Facebook a Marriage Killer?

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

If you are married, you may wish to pause and consider how you behave on Facebook and other social media outlets. Why? Because as much as one-third of divorce filings in 2011 included the word "Facebook" within them, according to a report by ABCNews.com. And the numbers may be even higher a few years later.

On top of that, the article states that more than 80 percent of divorce attorneys report that social networking behavior is finding its way into divorce proceedings.

Bitcoin just won't stay out of the headlines. The most popular, and promising, virtual currency is in the news again -- but this time the news is not good. From technical glitches, talk of bit licenses and the first legal actions against Bitcoin vendors, this was not a good week for Bitcoin.

All of this comes on the heels of Bitcoin potentially gaining legal legitimacy; from congressional hearings, to the United States Postal Service considering getting in on the Bitcoin exchange action.

Here's the week in a nutshell.

Why are Nokia and Microsoft Eyeing Android?

The oddest tech news of the week belongs to Microsoft, the new owners of Nokia's phone division.

For those who aren't tech-obsessed, Microsoft has its own phone operating system (Windows Phone 8.1) and app store, though its app store is far less populated than those of Google's Android or Apple's iOS. As a result, Microsoft's phones haven't been selling particularly well.

Two of the company's plans leaked earlier this week, and both point to a cozier relationship with rival Google's Android operating system.

Sen. Rand Paul Files Class Action Against NSA Metadata Collection

This may be nothing more than a publicity stunt and a fundraising campaign, but it's at least a really, really fun one.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with Matt Kibbe, the CEO of FreedomWorks, announced yesterday, via a press release and an op-ed on CNN, that they would file a lawsuit against the Obama administration, seeking to end the National Security Agency's bulk cell phone metadata collection program. They are represented by anti-sodomy crusader and former Virginia Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Ken Cuccinelli.

#TheDayWeFightBack: Reform Public and Private Data Mining

Today, February 11, 2014, is "The Day We Fight Back," a movement dedicated to reforming government mass surveillance. It's an important cause, one that we hope you'll join by heading to TheDayWeFightBack.org and contacting your representatives in Congress.

But is it enough to merely deal with government surveillance? Part of the the reason why the NSA has been so effective at monitoring American citizens is because of private data mining by tech companies. These companies scan our emails, request pervasive data permissions on our smartphones, and then act surprised when the government taps into their massive data centers and makes copies.

We're disturbed by NSA surveillance, but we're almost equally disturbed by the rise of "big data" and private data mining.

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

Here in the United States, we are accustomed to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution.

Indeed, this freedom has been interpreted by the courts to include the freedom to speak freely on the Internet, even anonymously. (However, if such speech causes harm, it is possible that anonymity will be unmasked so that the victim of the speech can seek legal redress).

Unfortunately, other countries are not as open in terms of safeguarding the ability of people to speak their minds -- and in this case, Turkey is among them.

'Dallas Buyers Club' Torrent Lawsuits Filed, Impossible to Prove

Our first reaction: are people still filing these?

Dallas Buyers Club is an award-winning movie. Like every other movie out there, good or bad, award-winning or flopping, it gets pirated on the Internet, most commonly via Bittorrent file-sharing networks.

Bittorrent is far from anonymous. Anyone on Bittorrent can see the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of every other person connected to the file. With the IP addresses and a court order, copyright "trolls" can go to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and ask for real names.

Easy as downloading pirated movies pie, right? So why is suing the bootleggers so darn difficult?

Intern Saga: Game Mocks Law Grads' Lives, Trademark Disputes

A trademark and law school parody, all in one app.

It's common knowledge that today's law grads, for lack of a better term, are screwed. Six-figure debt, no jobs, yadda yadda.

And as lawyers, we're often amused by some of the more ridiculous trademark battles out there, like trademarking "candy" and "saga" for all videogames and then going after games that bear no resemblance to your candy-crushing puzzle game. 

Take both jokes, turn them into a game, and you get Intern Saga: Trademark Lawyer.

Technology can't seem to stop stepping on the law's toes. Today we have a roundup of tech-legal news that just won't stop featuring some usual suspects: Bitcoin, Silk Road and Apple. Read on for the full report:

Bitcoin and USPS?

Yep, you read that right. You might be able to withdraw Bitcoins from a United States Post Office one day. The USPS Office of Inspector General held a webinar last week to "explore the possibilities" of providing non-banking financial services, including "providing bitcoin exchange services at post offices," according to Main Street. While Bitcoin has been gaining increased legitimacy, as seen by recent federal hearings, the presence of Bitcoin exchanges in post offices would bring it to a whole new level.

Holy Cow! Our Government Has at Least One Great, Working Website

So there I am. It was dark, cold, and rainy (outside). It was me, my keyboard, and writer's block.

Then I stumbled upon an NLRB rule change announcement and decided to do my job and dig up the actual text of the rule change in the Federal Register.

Holy hell, have you actually used the Federal Register's website? We give our dear government a lot of crap for funding websites that don't actually work, but at least in this one instance, there is actually a government website that (a) works (b) looks good and (c) is absolutely freaking fantastic.

3 Lessons To Learn From Microsoft's New CEO

Now that Satya Nadella has been named as Microsoft's new CEO, what lessons can companies learn from him?

Besides the fact that Nadella can rock the hell out of the casual chic, tech dad look, his long-time employment at Microsoft and low public profile sets him apart from several of the other tech CEOs.

Here are three lessons to learn from Microsoft's new CEO.

Google's Request to Bump Gmail Scanning to 9th Cir. Rejected

In September, Google suffered a defeat at the hands of the most powerful woman in Silicon Valley, Judge Lucy Koh, whose courthouse credits include the Apple v. Samsung dispute, the secret anti-poaching agreement labor class action, and more.

The Gmail scanning lawsuit, which is just one of the privacy-related lawsuits pending against the tech giant, stems from Google's practice of scanning all email sent to or from Google email accounts, paid or free, for purposes of delivering advertisements or gathering "big data" for user profiles and market research.

10 at 10: Privacy Settings to Celebrate Facebook's Birthday

Ten years.

Ten years of embarrassing photos, dirty jokes, drunk status updates, and other mistakes. On Facebook's Tenth Anniversary, we'd like to remind you that Facebook, even with its ongoing mission to make everything about everyone public, has a whole bunch of privacy settings that will prevent past mistakes from resurfacing.

And since ten is the magic number, here is our big list of the ten settings you should know about:

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

A block on the website The Pirate Bay has been partially lifted by the Court of Appeal in The Hague, according to ZDNet. The Court of Appeal came to this result, reasoning that the block was disproportionate for two particular Internet Service Providers and also because it generally was not effective.

The Pirate Bay, as a search engine, can locate tiny information files known as torrents that implement content downloading on the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing system. This can enable the sharing of pirated music, movies, and software.

Sophie's Google Choice: Privacy or Functionality and Convenience?

It's been a slow march of regress, in terms of privacy protections, for Google users. The company that once revolutionized email, provided free (and excellent) turn-by-turn navigation on our smartphones, and became the industry leader in about a dozen other areas, has slowly chipped away at privacy, much to the chagrin of users everywhere.

But can we really quit Google? From our smartphones to our browsers, to our gadgets, and even our email, Google is everywhere. And the alternatives, in many cases, are expensive, less functional, or have similar privacy issues.