Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

April 2017 Archives

Facebook and Google Hit in $100M Scam

If you thought email phishing scams only targeted consumers and athletes looking for things in all the wrong places, think again.

Online scammers look for money wherever they can find unsuspecting victims. That includes mega companies, like Facebook and Google.

According to a criminal indictment, a Lithuanian named Evaldas Rimasaukas swindled more than $100 million by using forged email addresses, invoices, and corporate stamps to impersonate a manufacturer and bill purchasers in the United States. Fortune, in an exclusive, learned that those buyers were Facebook and Google.

Megaupload Data Trapped on Servers for Five Years

Kyle Goodwin, a videographer of high school sports, got T-boned along the information super highway.

He was stopped at an information intersection when a reckless driver rear-ended him and sent him helplessly into internet traffic. A crossing vehicle smashed into him and there he sat -- or at least his video information sat -- stuck in a third-party server.

Unfortunately, it's been five years and his digital videos are still trapped in the same place. In internet years, that is like five lifetimes.

Berkeley Warns of Cell Phone Radiation -- Ordinance Warning Law Upheld

Remember when people worried about cell phones causing brain cancer if they put the devices to their ears?

Well, the City of Berkeley thinks it is bad enough that cell phone retailers ought to warn people about putting them in their pant pockets or bras -- literally that's what their signs must say. And since a federal appeals court said the city ordinance is valid, it must be so.

"Berkeley's compelled disclosure does no more than to alert consumers to the safety disclosures that the FCC requires, and to direct consumers to federally compelled instructions in their user manuals providing specific information about how to avoid excessive exposure," Judge William Fletcher wrote. "Far from conflicting with federal law and policy, the Berkeley ordinance complements and reinforces it."

FTC Settles 'Supercookies' Case

In the sci-fi movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise has his eyes removed in a gross scene that you cannot unsee. So don't watch it just because of this movie reference.

But there is another part of the movie that you can't ignore. In the future, the movie shows how companies will be able to track us and push custom-tailored ads at us wherever we go. There is no escape from the Big Brother ad man.

Well, that movie was made 15 years ago and the future is now. "Supercookies" or "zombie cookies" are the villains in this tale.

Lawsuit Claims Some Tesla Safety Features Are 'Vaporware'

In a class-action filed in California, Tesla owners allege the automaker is using faulty software for standard safety features and autopilot. One owner said he turned on the autopilot, and his car started veering out of lanes, lurching and slamming on the brakes for no reason.

"The Enhanced Autopilot Features are simply too dangerous to be used," the lawsuit says in Sheikh v. Tesla.

We all work on the go these days, checking emails on the bus, typing up memos in a coffee shop, or drafting documents on a red-eye flight. But the freedom to work from anywhere also comes with some drawbacks.

When you're out of the office or on the go, you don't have your regular cybersecurity systems there to protect you, meaning you could be putting your own and your clients' information at risk. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself, taken from the FindLaw archives.

How Using AI Can Be Your Marketing Boon

Kevin O'Keefe, a 20-year veteran of legal marketing, recently had an epiphany about artificial intelligence. Emerging from an annual Legal Marketing Association meeting, he realized it was the first year anyone had mentioned AI.

"AI and machine learning may have been discussed in relation to e-discovery, but this year there were multiple sessions with legal technology and software presenting on AI," he said.

What does that mean? It means lawyers haven't really been using AI to market their law firms.

Theranos to Pay $4.65 Million in Settlement

Theranos, the troubled blood-testing company, has agreed to pay $4.65 million to settle claims in Arizona.

State Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the company misrepresented its blood tests in advertisements to customers, including more than 175,000 Arizonans. About 10 percent of some 1.5 million tests proved to be flawed.

"Everyone who paid for a test will receive a full refund, period," Brnovich said. "This is a great result and a clear message that Arizona's consumer protection laws will be vigorously enforced."

Facebook Can't Stop Search Warrants for User Information in Criminal Probe

It turns out what you don't know can hurt you, especially if you are on social media.

According to New York's highest court, Facebook could not even challenge search warrants it received for user information in a criminal investigation. The court said only the individuals, not the company, could challenge the warrants -- even though the Facebook users never even knew about them.

"Indeed, to hold otherwise would be to impermissibly and judicially create a right to appeal in a criminal matter that has not been authorized by our Legislature," Judge Leslie Stein wrote for the majority.

The ruling was bad news for online services and social media, including Twitter, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, who backed Facebook in the challenge. But it was really bad news for the individuals who were the subject of the search warrants; sixty of them have already been convicted in the Facebook sweep.

Google will pay $7.8 million and open up its Android software to competitors as part of a settlement with Russian antitrust authorities, Reuters reported on Monday. The deal could be a precedent-setting settlement for the tech company.

Google, like Microsoft before it, was accused of exploiting the market dominance of its Android smartphone operating system, in order to shut out competition and protect its online search traffic. The Android OS is by far the most common operating system for smartphones globally, operating on nearly nine out of every ten smartphones phones worldwide.

What You Might Not Know About Amazon

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

Sure, sure, like most of us, you use Amazon often to buy things online and have them delivered to your home without the hassle of actually having to go out to the store. So, given your buying familiarity with Amazon, you might think you know quite a bit about the company. But perhaps there is much more to know.

Indeed, in a recent book by Brad Stone, titled "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon," profiled by Business Insider, much is revealed that you might not know. (And yes, big surprise, you can purchase the book on Amazon).

'Stupid Patent of the Month' Goes to Court

Adding injury to insult, an advocacy group has sued an alleged patent troll to protect its rights to publish a blog called "Stupid Patent of the Month."

The blog calls attention to "questionable patents that stifle innovation, harm the public and can be used to shake down unsuspecting users of commonplace processes or technologies," says the complaint filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

EFF had called out a patent claim by Global Equity Management, which then obtained an injunction against the company in Australia. The advocacy organization now seeks a declaratory judgment that the foreign court cannot enjoin the blog based on the First Amendment.

A California law that would have let school administrators search students' phones and electronic devices without a warrant died in the state assembly on Wednesday, as California Assemblyman Jim Cooper pulled the legislation from committee.

The law, AB165, would have exempted students from protections against warrantless searches established in California's Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 2015. The legislation was intended to help schools deal with cyberbullying and other threats, its backers say, but received significant opposition from civil rights groups.

Coffee Shop Lawyers, Public Wi-Fi Is Not Your Friend

Lawyers, equipped with mobile devices to draft legal documents and email them, are meeting with clients at coffee shops across the country. This phenomenon is nothing new, at this point. But we're repeating the story because attorneys are still using public Wi-Fi networks, despite the potential legal and ethical liabilities.

You want to protect your firm and your client data from cyberattacks. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure. But prevention is only one part of a full cybersecurity plan.

Detection is just as important. After all, if you can't tell when someone's gotten through your defenses, you can't properly respond to a cyberattack. And for many organizations, detection is a serious weakness. Most companies don't recognize that their data has been breached until months after the event.

Technology and the New Practice of Law

Technology and the law have a type of symbiotic relationship.

New technologies change the practice of law, and the law also molds the use of technology. They are not entirely dependent on each other, but they certainly can thrive when they co-exist.

Here are some areas where they have changed everything and the new practice of law:

For the past ten years or so, we've been careening to a Star Trek-like future, where all our computing is done in a simple, hand-held device. Smartphones let us bill hours via apps, tablets let us port word processors around as easily as a magazine.

But if you want to experience the future, you might want to look to the near past. The desktop PC, that humming, churning plastic box from the '90s, has suddenly jumped to the forefront of innovation.

The Brits Are Coming With LegalTech

Sometimes, it seems like the English have to tell Americans what they've been missing.

Like rock and roll. While Chuck Berry was playing juke joints in the United States, the Beatles were bringing the sound to the Ed Sullivan Show.

Now it's the tech show. London-based firm Allen & Overy has opened up its office space for 60 entrepreneurs to develop technologies for the law firm and other businesses. It's an approach that is going to make some American firms wonder, "Why didn't we think of that?"

Businesses, cautious about future litigation and concerned about potential eDiscovery issues, are retaining more and more electronic information generated by their business and employees. We're not just talking about emails and .doc files, either. Electronically stored information is being collected from everything from social media apps to Internet of Things devices.

All told, there's a massive amount of ESI being stored by mid-sized and large companies -- 49.3 gigs per user for email data alone, according to a recent white paper by Osterman Research. And that number is expected to grow by more than 300 percent in the next six years, to 133 gigs.

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

Artificial Intelligence (AI) sounds exciting in terms of what AI can do for humans; however, a more fully automated world comes with a price -- many jobs lost that were previously performed by humans. This is especially true in specific employment sectors: sales, customer service, transportation, shipping/logistics and healthcare/legal paraprofessionals.

A recent article posted on Futurism.com walks through each of these sectors and how they will be impacted by AI.

Evolutionary Tips on Using Your Smartphone for Work

If we are using only 10 percent of our brains, then evolution says our brains are going to shrink.

Evolution strongly suggests that species survive by adaptation. Fortunately for humans, there's still time before the next generation takes over. But if we want to preserve brainpower, we need to adapt quickly.

In other words, download some apps to your smartphone. Here are a few:

Does your desk look a mess? Do you often find yourself wondering where you put your notes, or just what time that meeting was scheduled for? That's because you're unorganized.

Don't worry, it happens to all of us. But, thankfully, it's not that hard to stay on top of things. It doesn't require any massive life changes, it just requires a few apps. Here are three that should help you stay put together and on top of matters.

Tesla Claims No Duty to Design a Fail-Safe

The seat belt -- the simple lap-belt design -- was not required on cars in the United States until a decade after its invention.

A fail-safe -- a device to stop unintended acceleration in electric cars -- is not required in America now. And Tesla, the electric, self-parking car manufacturer, says it has no duty to make one.

That is the big issue in a proposed class action filed in a California federal court recently. The lawsuit cites 26 incidents in which Tesla cars have suddenly accelerated, including 22 crashes. The plaintiffs allege a design defect, and say Tesla should have created a fail-safe to fix it.

More IoT Regulations Brewing in Congress

Did you ever notice how "LoL" and "IoT" look a little alike? "Laugh out Loud" and the "Internet of Things?"

Maybe it's just me, but there is something a little funny about the internet security of a toaster. Or a coffee maker; that's a hot one.

To help keep our toasters and coffee makers safe, Congress is looking for more ways to deal with cyberattacks and privacy breaches through household devices connected to the internet.

When it comes to our automated future, a common refrain is that while automation will elimination some jobs, it will lead to growth overall. You need someone to lube up the robots' joints, after all, and someone to teach machines how to learn. Last year, for example, researchers found that an increasingly automated economy would "self-correct," creating new, more complex jobs and keeping wages and equality relatively stable.

Turns out, the data points the opposite direction. In a new paper, the same two researchers, Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, looked at the actual evidence form U.S. labor markets and found that increased automation reduced employment and wages. So, what does this mean for the future? And more importantly, what does this mean for legal professionals?

Age Discrimination Is Built Into Some Job Search Websites

It makes some sense that a technical gaffe caused online job sites to winnow out older workers.

The drop down menu on one job site only scrolled back to 1956 for applicants to indicate a graduation date on their resumes. Most tech workers these days weren't even born back then.

Unfortunately for the online companies, the math did not work out right for Illinois' top prosecutor. Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent letters to six job sites about the problem, which involved potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

"Today's workforce includes many people working in their 70s and 80s," Madigan said. "Barring older people from commonly used job search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy."

If your firm burns down, will you have a backup plan? What if your office just loses internet for a day? Or your computer system gets hacked and held for ransom?

For every law firm, from the smallest solo practice to the biggest of BigLaw, these are very real possibilities. As a legal professional, you should be aware of such potential risks and have a plan in place to respond. To help you out, here are some disaster-aversion tips from the FindLaw archives.

Amazon Seller Wins $6.8M in Court Battle Against Counterfeiter

Forget fake news. What about fake sales?

Americans are upset about fake news stories, but they are seething mad when it comes to fake sales online. Amazon, keenly aware of the problem through customer complaints, is fighting that battle in court. One of its retailers won a $6.8 million verdict against another that had used Amazon to sell knock-off fitness gear.

"This jury award should serve as a notice to all those determined to engage in intellectual property infringement or other similar unlawful activity that they are not beyond the reach of justice by federal court juries," said Paul Zadoff, president of TRX for Fitness Anywhere about its win against WOSS Enterprises.

Amazon helped Fitness Anywhere and is cracking down on other fakes online. In November, Amazon filed two lawsuits against more than 20 companies and individuals for allegedly selling knock-off equipment and furniture.

Human Rights in the Digital Age

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

Should you have human rights specific to the new digital age? The answer is a clear YES, according to Gerd Leonhard, the author of the new book titled "Technology vs. Humanity." Indeed, Leonhard sets out five potential human rights in what he calls a Digital Ethics Manifesto. So, what are these proposed rights?

Time to Revisit the Outer Space Treaty?

At the height of the Space Race and in the chill of the Cold War, the world's most powerful nations reached an agreement that has remained largely intact for 50 years: The Outer Space Treaty.

It was 1967 -- only five years after the United States and the Soviet Union squared off in the Cuban missile crisis -- when the countries put down their weapons and agreed that space would not be militarized. Somehow, ironically after millions have died in conflicts around the globe since then, we have made it so.

However, legal minds ask, will the treaty survive a new space race?