Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

January 2018 Archives

What to Watch in the Waymo v. Uber Trial

Preparing for trial in the biggest self-driving car case ever, attorney Melissa Bailey is focused on damages.

In Waymo v. Uber, she asked the trial judge to allow the plaintiff to present financial projections about the size of the self-driving market. The judge denied the pre-trial request, saying he didn't want to tempt the jury with "big numbers."

But the stakes are no secret. Last year, Intel projected the self-driving car market could be a $7 trillion industry in the near future.

The new SpaceX project, Heavy, which was recently successfully tested, is proof positive that Elon Musk's revolutionary company is making huge strides for the space industry.

Notably, SpaceX has been able to do what NASA never could, cut costs. Where the vendors for NASA never were pressured to reduce costs due to the lack of alternatives, SpaceX has turned to in house manufacturing where vendors couldn't meet their cost demands. Given the legal industry's reluctance to cut costs, perhaps there may be a lesson law firms can learn from SpaceX.

NY Investigates Company Selling Fake Followers

What's the difference between paying for fake followers and selling bots that use stolen identities?

There is no difference because they are both embarrassments. Actually, selling bots with stolen identities as fake followers is also a crime.

That's what New York's attorney general says after opening an investigation based on an expose by the New York Times. The newspaper disclosed that social media users buy fake followers -- bots using real identities -- to raise their public profile.

What's Next for Cryptocurrency After Thieves Rip Off $400M of It?

Bitcoin -- the bellwether for the meteoric rise in the value of cryptocurrency -- was supposed to be the gold of the 21st century gold rush.

It's still worth about $11,000 a coin, but down about 7 percent from last week. Could the theft of $400 million in cryptocurrency from another exchange have anything to do with it?

Yes or no, wasn't the value of cryptocurrency built on the idea that it was secure? While tech figures it out, law firms are still accepting virtual money in lieu of the real thing.

In response to a letter from, and meeting with, the ABA, the Department of Homeland Security has released revised guidelines when it comes to border agents searching the electronic devices of lawyers that contain privileged information.

The whole warrantless border searches of electronic devices controversy has been brewing for some time now. And while regular folks, even journalists and high powered business execs, may be all but defenseless when a CBP agent demands to search their electronic devices at the border, thanks to the ABA, lawyers have a new tool to at least defend themselves: bureaucratic inconvenience and paperwork. Unfortunately, the details are much less comforting.

The days of collecting business cards to stuff in the rolodex are long gone. When it comes to networking, technology has proven rather useful as anyone you need to meet or know is simply a Google search and email away (though your email could fall into the digital ether if you the person you're reaching out doesn't know you).

However, just because you can email and digitally meet almost anyone, that doesn't mean you should avoid in-person networking. Meeting and getting to know other professionals in a pseudo-social setting is great for building your own trusted network that will actually answer your phone calls and emails. And thanks to those handy smartphones we all have these days, networking can be much more impactful.

Below, you'll find three tips to help you leverage your smartphone for building, and nurturing, your network.

Florida Supreme Court Goes Live on Facebook

Unlike the traditional approach of the federal courts, the Florida Supreme Court is opening its doors ever wider to the electronic media.

The state supreme court is broadcasting on Facebook, making it one of the first courts in the world to use social media for official live video. The inaugural program showcased Florida's annual pro bono awards, and will soon feature oral arguments.

It is a remarkable difference from federal courts, which have banned electronic coverage of court proceedings since 1946. It is not so surprising, however, because the Florida Supreme Court broke the mold long ago.

Headlines were made over the weekend when one Tesla driver made history on San Francisco's Bay Bridge after being arrested for a DUI. While that alone isn't so epic, allegedly, the driver was found asleep, with the car stopped on the bridge, and he is alleged to have claimed that he wasn't driving, but rather had the vehicle's autopilot engaged

This delightful DUI actually raises quite a few legal questions about the use of driverless cars. Currently, the law permits the use of the Tesla autopilot and other similar features so long as the driver is present and can take over control. Unfortunately for the inebriated, for the time being, the law does not permit individuals to autopilot under the influence either. If the limited facts known are true, the case probably isn't a winner, but it'd sure be interesting.

Forensic Evidence From 'Black Mirror' Is a Work in Progress

If we lived in the Black Mirror world, we could be condemned by our memories.

That's because authorities in the sci-fi drama can see memories just like we can watch a DVD. Press rewind to the time of the crime, and your life is literally on display.

Thank goodness (or too bad, depending on your perspective) that kind of forensic evidence is just for television. Or is it?

Drones Working for Border Patrol

It may take a few years for President Trump to put up his wall, but in the meantime the Border Patrol is upping its game with flying drones.

On a clear day, the drones can be seen patolling the skies along the border between the United States and Mexico. They help agents see where they cannot go so easily -- the unpaved miles of desert, cactus, scrub brush, and gangly trees.

Actually, there are only three drones at work so far in the test program. But they are already covering a lot more ground than a wannabe wall, and they are a whole lot cheaper.

Sometimes there's a CLE that some lawyers just shouldn't miss. And if you're a California lawyer interested in keeping up-to-date on all the new legal technology laws, eDiscovery issues, or social media ethics, that CLE is taking place on February 10 in Los Angeles.

At The Rutter Group's program The New and Future Reality: How Technology is Affecting LitigationThe Rutter Group and the California Judges Association have assembled 20+ presenters, including 10 California judges, to cover a broad range of topics relating to the use of tech and the practice of law. Whether you need to learn about what to do when a juror misuses social media, or you need some help figuring out how to avoid being hacked, the all-day, 7 MCLE credit program (including 1 ethics credit, breakfast, and lunch), has you covered. (Disclosure: The Rutter Group is FindLaw's sister company.)

In a world where the internet contains copyrighted materials that were posted without the permission of the copyright holders, Playboy magazine is making an effort to hold an internet media company liable for posting a link to another person's online post (on a different web host) that allegedly infringes on Playboy's copyright, or maybe actually 746 of their copyrights.

The website Boing Boing posted an Imgur link to an archive of 746 Playboy Centerfolds and commented on how awesome it was to see the progression over the years. In response, Playboy filed a lawsuit alleging Boing Boing infringed upon their copyrights. However, Boing Boing, on a motion to dismiss, is arguing that linking is not copyright infringement.

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

A scholarly law review article talks about the right to privacy in the face of new technology encroachments and speaks of "the right to be let alone." When was this article written? This year? Last year? No, in 1890, and think of all the technological advancements that jeopardize the right to privacy since then!

States Getting Ready for SCOTUS to Legalize Sports Betting

You can bet on anything -- even the highly anticipated decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on sports betting.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide this term whether sports betting should be legal everywhere in the United States. It is already legal in Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon; New Jersey is suing to make it legal there as well.

Legislators in 18 states are betting on a win with bills ready to regulate the industry. Of course, as any gambler knows, the house always wins.

Software Can't Beat Laypersons at Predicting Recidivism

Some things are true even if you can't explain them.

It's true of a sixth sense and, apparently, the ability to predict recidivism. According to researchers, random people can predict a defendant's likelihood of reoffending better than a computer.

It's another confirmation that people really do have brains and that computers don't. Who'd have thought?

How Tech Has Shifted Law Firm Division of Labor

Before cellphones and wearable technologies, it was odd to see someone talking to the air.

Today, other than the fashion faux pas of having bent-cigarette headphones hanging out of your ears, it seems normal. That's the evolution of technology at work.

But how is that evolution affecting work at the law firm? Is there a place for that old-time practice of law?

Despite the endless advertising and generally consistent service, internet service providers are rarely liked by their customers. Additionally, in some markets, the costs of service can often be prohibitive for many, especially when there is no competition in the market to drive down prices. In recent years, some local governments have stepped up to the plate to provide internet services when competition was lacking.

In markets with a lack of competition, if available, consumers can be even more likely to jump ship from a big ISP to a government owned local ISP, often referred to as municipal broadband. Typically, because municipal broadband will be government subsidized, it can capture significant market share based on its lower costs alone.

Burger Joint Sues DoorDash: Stop Delivering Our Food!

DoorDash, the on-demand food-delivery service, does one thing relatively faster than deliver food: answer lawsuits.

As soon as the company learned it had been sued for advertising certain burgers without permission, it stopped. Burger Antics, a Chicago restaurant, claimed trademark infringement because DoorDash had put its menus and logo on its delivery website.

The burger joint's attorney said it's not over until DoorDash does something about the nine burger orders it wrongly delivered. Really? And how would they like their motions served?

In a recent lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the state of Nevada against the website MyEx.com and its affiliates and operators, the government is looking to shut down one of the most notorious revenge-porn websites. And if you were looking to get one last NSFW sneak peak at the perverse website, you're out of luck, as it's already vanished from the Web.

Fortunately for the prosecutors, one of the defendants that is alleged to have helped operate the site, Aniello "Neil" Infante, has agreed to settle the claims against him and cooperate however possible. As part of the settlement, he agreed to not post anyone's picture or information online without permission, not accept money to remove information from the internet, as well as several other specific conditions. Furthermore, the settlement required him to sign a stipulated order and judgment, which was filed alongside the federal complaint in Nevada.

Running a law firm is no simple task. Apart from having to also be a lawyer, if you're in charge of the firm, you have to manage the people, the facilities, the clients, the potential clients, the marketing, and everything else, including cybersecurity.

With all that's on your plate, that last one, cybersecurity, is actually a really big deal, and should not be left to fall by the wayside. Below, you can read about three of the most common mistakes law firms make when it comes to cybersecurity.

'Fruitfly' Hacker Indicted for Spying, Collecting 'Embarrassing' Data

Philip Durachinsky was about 13 years old when he started hacking computers.

Over the next decade, he exploited malware to spy on people through their computer microphones and cameras. By the time he was 27, he had collected million of images of unknowing victims -- including children in pornographic photos.

The FBI caught him about a year ago, but didn't know how dangerous he was at the time. It turns out Durachinsky also had access to a government agency responsible for nuclear weapons.

The FTC and VTech Electronics have reached a settlement related to the 2015 data breach that exposed millions of children's and their parents' personal information. The data breach resulted from internet-connected devices for kids, including handhelds, smartwatches, and a variety of apps and media. VTech reported is paying $650,000 to settle the FTC's case.

One significant problem involved VTech collecting information from kids without the consent of their parents in the first. And while the company did store much of this information in an encrypted format, the decryption keys were readily available to the hacker. The company did not know about the hack until it was reported online through a major tech publisher. As a result of the FTC settlement, VTech's data protection policies will undergo review every two years for the next two decades.

Is Mickey Mouse's Copyright Doomed?

In the Disney classic Steamboat Willie, Mickey plays a variety of musical "instruments" -- a goat for a grinder's organ, a duck for bagpipes, a bull's teeth for a xylophone -- to orchestrate the folk song Turkey in the Straw.

It's always been funny, but it is ironic now because the song fell into the public domain more than a century ago. It looks like the film is finally headed for the same fate.

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

As you enter the new year of 2018, you probably are planning to eat at restaurants, stay in hotels, visit doctors and other professionals, and shop online and in stores. Before spending your hard-earned dollars, you may be one of millions of people who go to review sites, like Yelp, to make sure that you will be spending your money at establishments that have earned favorable reviews. But what happens when vendors and providers require contractual clauses that ban consumer reviews? Enter the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016.

No Innovation Without Proper Implementation

About 70 percent of organizational changes fail, including adaptations to new technology.

It's so predictable, everyone knows that today's innovation will be replaced -- or updated -- by tomorrow's. When it comes to law firm technology, however, it is a little more complicated.

It's not as hard for lawyers to buy tech, as it is to get them to use it. But innovation without implementation is a waste of time and money, right?

There are some forms of entertainment that people are hardwired to watch. Police chases and standoffs rank pretty high on that list, despite the fact that neither should be considered entertainment at all.

However, a not-so-new prank phenomenon and hoax, known as "swatting," continues to plague law enforcement, the public, and even celebrities. Swatting is a seriously dangerous and illegal prank that involves a person calling in a fake threat to 9-1-1 or police, with the threat being such that the police are required to respond with a massive showing of force, such as by deploying a SWAT team. And while swatting is not funny, and a serious crime, it's difficult to not chuckle a little bit about the fact that Ashton Kutcher, who starred in the MTV sensation Punk'd, got swatted by a 12 year old kid.

So you got a flashy new device over the holidays only to find out that it is so new that none of your other tech can actually work with it. Unless you're dealing with a deep seeded software incompatibility (such as Mac or PC only device), there is probably some sort of work around, so keep calm and turn your technology off and then on again.

First, before you even Google for an answer, did you try turning all your devices off and back on again? Seriously, try it. A simple reboot fixes so many of technology's problems. If so, your next step should be to consult the internet and simply ask in a Google search why your new and old devices aren't playing nice. For just about every tech-related problem out there, someone before you has not only experienced it, there's a good chance they've blogged about the solution they found.

Below, you can read about a couple different general solutions to making new and old tech work together.

What's the Big Chip Security Problem?

What's the big chip problem? The security of your computers and smart devices are most likely compromised.

How bad is it? It's not bad enough to throw them out, but you better fix it soon.

What can lawyers do about it? Before considering a class-action lawsuit, download a security patch.

FCC Battles Pirate Radio in Florida

Remember when Capt. Jack Sparrow gets eaten by the Kraken?

That's what happened -- more or less -- to a pirate radio station in Miami. A couple was broadcasting Haitian music from their backyard, when the Federal Communications Commission seized their equipment to shut them down.

Speaking of pirates; the government also fined the operators $144,344. But just like the movie, they emerged again.

When you get yourself new tech, your older tech can sometimes be rendered obsolete or just unused. But, if you didn't completely destroy your last device, it can often feel bad to just let it gather dust in a drawer. Fortunately, there's a solution, at least for your Apple and Android smartphones.

Since most smartphones, at least for the last few years, have a pretty good camera, as well as WiFi, as well as a decent enough processor to run as a dedicated security camera, an old iPhone or Android phone can easily be used as an additional measure of office security (or home security). Simply download the free Presence app (or another similar type of app) onto the retired device and your new one, and follow the setup instructions.