Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

May 2017 Archives

Can One Driverless Car Change Auto Liability?

Even one driverless car can improve traffic conditions, according to a new report.

Because human response times vary, traffic flow changes like a snake twists to move along the ground. But with an autonomous vehicle, the experimental data shows, the flow becomes more regulated and actually improves with speed.

The phenomenon marks another point in the evolution of driverless cars that will change everything about automobiles, including how to address liability for accidents.

What Internet of Things Devices Are Lawyers Using?

It won't be long before you -- personally -- will be connected to the internet.

It will happen with an earpiece or contact lenses or some wearable. Oh wait, we're already there.

If you haven't noticed, lawyers are literally talking to the air, if not their hand, because they are wirelessly connected to someone, or something, somewhere. Here are some of the smart devices they are using on the Internet of Things.

Citepad: a Digital Keypad for Lawyers

Citepad is like a magic wand that floats over your screen and inserts legal terms, symbols, and phrases into documents with the touch of your finger.

It does not turn your computer screen into a touch screen, but you "touch" the Citepad virtual keyboard with your mouse and "Voila."

An innovation from Juristech, it is available by download for as little as $15. Not bad for a magic wand.

Microsoft's New Server Can Serve Lawyers

One thing for sure about the future of legal tech, there will be upgrades.

In that tradition, Microsoft has announced its newest edition of SQL 2017 -- a server that features software upgrades that may serve lawyers well. It is not a lawyer product, per se, but it has tools that can help attorneys manage their workloads.

The most promising features for the legal profession, according to reports, are improved analytics and artificial intelligence that may even predict outcomes.

Bad News for Patent Trolls: Forum Shopping Is Finally Over

After a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in TC Heartland v. Kraft, patent trolls will have a harder time proving their cases. That's because now patent claims will have to be made in a defendant's home state -- not in a forum-friendly jurisdiction that trolls have used to litigate claims on patents they purchased just to sue.

"Forum shopping in patent litigation is over," said patent lawyer Shawn G. Hansen. "Half of the patent cases previously filed in East Texas will now have to shift to places like Delaware, California and New York."

Facebook Revenge Porn and 'Sextortion' -- Too Many Cases to Handle

'Sextortion' is what is sounds like, and you shouldn't have to see it to know it.

Likewise, 'revenge porn' is descriptive enough that you probably know what's wrong with that picture. In a time when pornography has reached virtually every corner of the internet, perhaps it is no surprise that sextortion and revenge porn are big problems for the family-friendly Facebook.

But 54,000 cases in a month on the website! Are you Facebook-kidding me?!

Read My Lips: No Password Necessary

You may soon be able to replace your password with just a spoken word, according to scientists at Hong Kong Baptist University.

They have invented lip-reading software, apparently the first of its kind. Users will be able to speak into their smart devices, which will unlock as the software recognizes their lip movement. It will work even with a silent whisper.

Futurism, a technology news site, gushes that it "could spell the end of passwords as we know them."

Why Hackers Should Be Defended in Court

James Donovan, portrayed by Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies, was a real-life insurance attorney who volunteered to defend a Russian spy in the 1950s.

His true story is stranger than the fictional account, but the message of the movie is just as true for lawyers today. "Everyone deserves a defense," Donovan said. "Every person matters."

It's a surprising truth for some, especially when a high-profile defendant seems really guilty. Matthew Keys, who is in prison for hacking, is one of those defendants. Mark Jaffe, who learned that sometimes it pays to work for free, is one of his lawyers,

Thunderbird Email to Stay Under Mozilla's Wing, For Now

After Mozilla gave birth to Firefox, the popular web browser, it created an email client in Thunderbird.

But as the two grew up, Thunderbird turned out to be a problem child. Concerned about its effect on the family, Mozilla started to push Thunderbird out of the nest.

Five years have passed, and Thunderbird is still hanging around. For now, Mozilla is keeping the email client under its wing but with conditions and not for long. The Mozilla drama is a study in the challenges of freeware.

Trump Issues Cybersecurity Executive Order

If last week's global ransomware attack last week is any indication, then President Trump's executive order on cybersecurity is just about on time.

Fortunately, the ransomware attack that hit hundreds of thousands of computers from Taiwan to the United Kingdom missed most of the United States. And while a president's order may not stop all cybersecurity breaches, it is a good sign that the president, whose main form of communication seems to be Twitter, is trying to do his part for the security of that and other online platforms. Trump's Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said the order is designed to fulfill the president's promise to "keep America safe, including cyberspace."

Waymo v. Uber Lawsuit Referred to Criminal Investigators by Federal Judge

If this story starts to sound like something you've heard before, don't worry. It gets better, or worse, depending on how you see it.

Google's self-driving car division, Waymo, sued Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets for its own self-driving cars. Anthony Levandowski, a former Google engineer, downloaded 14,000 files from the company before he started his own and promptly sold the technology to Uber for $680 million.

The case is pending in federal court, where the judge has just dropped a bombshell. He denied Uber's request to move the case into arbitration, and instead referred it to the U.S. Attorney's Office for criminal investigation.

Amazon's Digital Assistant Alexa Will Track Your Billable Hours

If you haven't met Alexa yet, you're gonna love her now.

Alexa is Amazon's digital assistant -- and she does more than ever. She started out as a desktop version of Siri, the iPhone know-it-all who responds to voice commands.

Now, thanks to innovation from Thomson Reuters, FindLaw's parent company, Alexa does something only a lawyer could love. She keeps track of billable hours!

When Lawyers Fear Legal Tech, Business Suffers

If the shark is at the top of the ocean food chain, what are sharks afraid of?

Starvation, that's what. It doesn't matter how many teeth you have if there is nothing left to bite.

Lawyers can relate. As technology takes away legal work, lawyers feel the threat of starvation. But the real danger is for lawyers who don't adapt to the changing times. Clients expect lawyers to keep up with technology. Even basic tech tools can significantly increase efficiency.

Without embracing new tech, lawyers may become toothless in an ocean with fewer sources of food. The good news is that technology isn't expected to take all the legal jobs anytime soon, and there's still time to adapt.

How Google Shut Down Phishing Scam

Fending off hackers can be like fixing a leaky roof -- as soon as you patch one, another spot springs a leak.

Google managed to recover from a big one last year, then quickly sealed off another last week. The company says it shut down the Google Doc phishing scam in less than an hour.

"Fewer than 0.1 percent of our users were affected by this attack, and we have taken steps to re-secure affected accounts," said Mark Risher, director of counter-abuse technology for the company.

With about 1 billion Gmail users, that's about 1 million people whose accounts were compromised. A far cry from the 1.5 billion Yahoo users who were hacked, but still ...

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

Since the internet expanded beyond the narrow confines of the military and a few educational institutions and became a more general phenomenon, there has been concern about the internet haves and have nots. There has been talk about the digital divide -- meaning those who already have greater resources will get further ahead by virtue of internet access, leaving those without resources and access even more behind and in the dust. Well, is that about to change?

In a recent Senate committee hearing, SpaceX explained plans for building a global internet network. The foundation of the plan is the deployment of in excess of 4,000 satellites into orbit. And this is not just idle talk by SpaceX. Indeed, the company completed an application to the FCC in November and reportedly is motivated to proceed with its plan, according to an article by Futurism.com.

What Could Facebook's Brain-Linking Technology Mean for Legal Marketing?

Body language is so yesterday. Tomorrow, it will be head language.

That's because today Facebook researchers are working on a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind. They want people to communicate with the computers through their heads -- no wires or strings attached.

It sounds like the closest thing to mind-reading since Kreskin's ESP, which means it will probably be a board game before it's a practical interface. Not to be a buzz-kill, but the voice in my head is saying, "Objection. Hypothetical."

New Technology Copies Anyone's Voice in a Minute

If you have ever tried to train a parrot to talk, you know that it takes a long time and a lot of patience.

And once the bird has learned a phrase or two, it's not like it can carry on a conversation. It's basically an ornithological version of a tape recorder.

Well, a Canadian startup called Lyrebird has developed a parrot-like program that can mimic anyone's voice in about a minute. But then it does one better: the darn thing can actually talk.

It is also interesting, from a legal perspective, that the company knows its potential for abuse.

Everyday Tasks for Lawyers Now Obsolete Thanks to Technology

Reflecting on the old days may tell us how old we are but also what we left behind.

In an always evolving technological world, it reminds us that somethings will never be the same. For better or for worse, this is especially true in the practice of law.

For those who remember a time before Kimmel, here's a Letterman-like list of Top 10 Lawyer Things That Are No More:

3 Digital Security Resources for Lawyers

One thing is for sure about technology: it will become outdated.

It usually happens just as you think you understand the "old" technology. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say "they" plan it that way -- like automakers plan cars to fall apart exactly one day after the warranties expire.

Addison Cameron-Huff, who blogs as a "tech lawyer, Torotonian, entrepreneur and programmer," tries to keep current with lawyerly technologies. After running a webinar titled "Digital Security for the 2017 Lawyer," he posted a list of resources from the presentation on his blog site.

Fortunately for the learning curve, some oldies have made a comeback. Here are a few:

Lawsuit Claims Facebook's Birthday Reminder Texts Violate Telemarketing Law

What would we do if Facebook didn't remind us of all those birthdays?

That's a 156 million-user, class-action question, at least in the United States. A proposed class action says the automatic text reminders violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiff says the text messages sent to users' cell phones are just like unsolicited robocalls outlawed by the TCPA.

For now, a federal judge in San Francisco has put the case on hold while the appeals court decides whether to step into the debate. In the meantime, the judge said Facebook has presented an interesting question.

"In regard to the question addressing the constitutionality of the TCPA, the Court acknowledges this was a novel issue of first impression," Judge Thelton E. Henderson said in granting the company's request to pursue an interlocutory appeal in Brickman v. Facebook.

NSA to Stop Sifting Americans' Email

When Donald Trump tweets about the New York Times, that's one thing, but when Edward Snowden tweets about it, that's something else.

After the New York Times reported that the National Security Agency will stop collecting Americans' email and text messages, Snowden tweeted an "I told you so." The former CIA agent, who is on the lam for leaking intelligence secrets, said "the truth changed everything."

"Contrary to denials, NSA was in fact sifting through Americans' emails," he tweeted. "And now they've been forced to halt it."

Busted by a 'Textalyzer'?

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

Let's face it -- many of us are addicted to our tech gadgets. We constantly have to check our smart phones for all sorts of communications and updates. Of course, this can be problematical, especially when we might want to reach for our handheld devices while driving our cars. Indeed, texting while driving can be rather dangerous; it is difficult to focus on your driving while looking down into your phone to text.

But if you manage to text while driving without causing an accident, are you out of the woods? Not necessarily. And what if you are involved in an accident? Well, you may be busted by a "textalyzer."