Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

February 2012 Archives

Attorneys general from 36 states want to meet with Google's CEO over "troubling" concerns about the new Google privacy policy, set to take effect tomorrow, March 1.

The attorneys general sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page, requesting a meeting by today, The Washington Post reports. Among the attorneys' main concerns: The policy seems to "invade consumer privacy," and fails to let users opt out, their letter says.

"The invasion of privacy will be costly for many users to escape," and could hit businesses and government agencies especially hard, the letter from the National Association of Attorneys General states.

5th Amendment Protects You, Your Hard Drive, 11th Cir. Rules

A child pornography suspect can refuse to decrypt his hard drive on 5th Amendment grounds, according to a new ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. That is, unless prosecutors first offer him derivative use immunity, which would virtually preclude a conviction.

Producing unencrypted files would require the suspect to reveal "the contents of his mind" and force him to admit his "knowledge of the existence and location of potentially incriminating files." And if the hard drive does contain child pornography, he would be conceding possession of the prohibited images.

Google's new privacy policy takes effect in just a few days. But there's still time for users to keep their web histories from being shared, and it takes only a few clicks.

Under Google's new policy beginning March 1, user data from all Google-owned sites and products -- such as Gmail, Google+, YouTube, and Google's search engine -- will be shared across those sites. For example, a user's search queries will help determine what ads appear on other Google sites like Gmail.

But the policy change will give Google access to data that some users may consider personal, such as location, age, religion, and sexual orientation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out.

There's a simple way to block that, the EFF says.

Is Legal Service by Facebook Coming Soon?

Sometimes it's difficult to serve a defendant. There are those that live alone, which means you can't leave the summons at their perpetually empty home. The unemployed and couch-hopping are also impossible to track down. What are you supposed to do?

Service by publication is an option in a number of jurisdictions, but again, it, too can be a crap shoot. But what if there was another option? What if the law permitted service by Facebook and other social media sites?

Do High-Tech Workers Deserve Smaller Paychecks?

Do IT workers deserve overtime pay? The answer to that question may vary depending on if you're an employee -- or the employer.

And it's an issue that has worked its way into legislation. A new bill seeks to eliminate certain IT workers' ability to earn overtime.

It's not too surprising that certain high tech firms support the recently-introduced bill. These companies include heavyweights such as IBM and Intel. They believe that the statutory update is necessary in order to keep jobs stateside.

Dropbox for iPhone is Good for Attorneys Who Are Already Dropbox Fans

The Dropbox app for the iPhone is useful. That is, if you use Dropbox already.

In order to review the Dropbox app, you need to be familiar with the computer program itself. And what the company offers. It's essentially a free cloud-based storage system for computer files.

It's useful in terms of sharing, uploading, and maintaining files across different devices such as your phone, computer, and tablet. For tech-savvy attorneys, having a program like Dropbox can simplify your life.

Buy a Phone with a Fake Name, Lose Your Right to Privacy

If you buy a phone using a fake name, you may be throwing away your reasonable expectation of privacy with regards to that device.

At least that is what the federal government is arguing in one Arizona case. The case involves a criminal defendant, Daniel David Rigmaiden.

He is accused of filing approximately $4 million worth of fraudulent tax returns starting in 2005. The FBI used a device called a "stingray" to catch Rigmaiden. It's able to track down a cell phone's location so long as it's powered "on."

A consumer watchdog group is trying to block Google's controversial new privacy policy -- by suing the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has until Friday to respond to the suit.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center's lawsuit seeks to compel FTC regulators to enforce the Commission's 2011 settlement with Google, The Los Angeles Times reports. Google's proposed privacy policy, set to kick in March 1, violates the settlement, EPIC's lawsuit asserts.

A federal court last week approved an accelerated briefing schedule so the EPIC suit can be heard before Google's planned rollout. The court gave the FTC until Feb. 17 to respond to EPIC's claims, ZDNet reports.

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

Businesses want to know whether they are potential targets for security breaches, and if so, they seek to identify the types of electric records that may be at risk.

The Trustwave 2012 Global Security Report sheds some light on these concerns by identifying top data-security risk areas. Highlights of the report include the following findings:

Evernote App Manages an Attorney's Case Notes, Video and Audio

Attorneys these days have busy schedules. Sometimes you have depositions in one city, a court appearance in another, and a brief you need to finish writing that same day. Evernote could be a useful application for attorneys that want a digital organization tool.

Granted, Evernote isn't for everyone. Some lawyers may prefer using paper calendars and notebooks. And, reading on the iPad or iPhone certainly isn't the best if your eyes are easily strained.

But since Evernote is free, it's worth a spin. And it does prove to be rather useful. Just download the app, register, and you're good to go.

The Twitterverse can at times seem like a vast wasteland, especially when you're looking for important law-related tweets. Hashtags can help.

Adding hashtags to tweets can help facilitate conversations and increase your visibility, a recent article in MedCity News points out. Users who search for specific hashtags (like #Prop8 for the Ninth Circuit's recent ruling on California's same-sex marriage ban) can call up all recent tweets that include the hashtag in question.

As a general rule, the shorter the hashtag, the better. Also, watch out for punctuation -- Twitter automatically ends a hashtag at the first sign of punctuation (so the tag #Bob's will show up in searches for the hashtag #Bob). Capitalization, however, does not matter.

Here are 15 hashtags that legal professionals may find helpful:

The FBI Really Wanted to Know if Steve Jobs Still Used Drugs

The FBI responded to a Freedom of Information Act request on Thursday and released Steve Jobs’ FBI file for all the world to see. Those who read Walter Isaacson’s recent biography will find much of the content familiar.

Still, there are some interesting tidbits, many of which refer to Steve Jobs’ use of drugs. The agency seemed to be a little obsessed with finding out whether, in the early 1990s, he was a current user.

Few thought he was.

AbacusLaw's New Sync Process Helps Simplify an Attorney's Life

If your firm uses AbacusLaw, it might pay to become acquainted with its recent release.

For those unfamiliar with the software, here's a quick primer. AbacusLaw is designed for law firms. It is an all-in-one software system that allows you to manage your practice. You can organize contacts, calendars, cases, documents, forms, billing, and accounting through one system.

There is a new upside too. With the recent update, syncing with your mobile app is now easier. What do you need to know to make the most out of your software?

A team of tech-savvy lawmakers is requesting a Carrier IQ Congressional hearing about potential privacy risks facing millions of U.S. smartphone users.

The call for a Carrier IQ hearing follows weeks of online and offline debate about Carrier IQ and its software's effects. The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee now gets to decide whether to hold a Congressional hearing, PCWorld reports. It's not clear when he'll announce a decision.

Carrier IQ, based in Mountain View, Calif., makes software that allows wireless companies to diagnose the health of their networks by relaying certain data from a user's smartphone.

But an independent software researcher found Carrier IQ's software seems to do much more -- without phone users' knowledge or consent.

Hackers Tried to Extort $50K from Symantec to Delete Stolen Code

When hackers breached Symantec's security systems, the company was left in a bind. That's why they tried to offer $50,000 in exchange for their stolen code.

The hackers had taken source code from the company's PCAnywhere and Norton Antivirus software. The break-in was severe enough for the company to call for consumers to disable PCAnywhere last month.

After all, if the source code was made public hackers could try to expose vulnerabilities in Symantec software.

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

You may be either "pro" or "con" when it comes to Facebook's new Timeline feature. If you are in the "con" category, you may wish for a solution that will cause the service to revert back to how it was before it changed. But beware: In so doing, you could become the victim of a scam.

Indeed, ever since Facebook introduced Timeline, a variety of fraudulent Internet postings have cropped up, proclaiming they can restore your profile to its original pre-Timeline state.

Brits Interrogated, Deported Over Twitter Comments

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod recently asked whether the Department of Homeland Security is watching you. It is, if you're inclined to believe DHS' 2011 Privacy Compliance Review.

That report included details about DHS' "Social Networking/Media Capability." Agents routinely monitor "publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards."

Just last week, that monitoring got two British tourists deported.

It's Now Impossible to Opt Out of Google's New Privacy Policy

There's a lot of hoopla surrounding Google's new privacy policy, but for the most part, it just simplifies the status quo. It consolidates 60 product-specific privacy policies into one company-wide document.

That document doesn't change the way Google shares personal data with third parties, according to PC Mag. Nor does it change the type of data the company collects. It only changes the way Google shares your personal data with you.

Privacy advocates are still concerned because consumers will have no way to opt out.

Will Attorneys Ditch iPads for $100 Off Sony Tablet S?

Sony is cutting the price of its Tablet S by $100. This brings the 16 GB version down to $399, and the 32 GB version down to $499. The real question for legal professionals is: is the Sony Tablet S right for attorneys?

And, are you willing to ditch your iPad dreams in order to capitalize on this relatively hefty discount?

Let's look a little bit closer at the gadget.

LegalTech 2012 Highlights New Tech For Your Practice

LegalTech 2012 has officially ended. The three-day conference, held at the New York Hilton, offered up opportunities for tech-savvy lawyers to network and learn.

Thomson Reuters, FindLaw's parent company, had a booth at Legal Tech. FindLaw's corporate sales consultant Aaron Black was also on site at the conference this year. Our intrepid "correspondent" rubbed shoulders with a lot of vendors and attorneys this week.

So what was the buzz like at LegalTech 2012?

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

A few weeks ago this blog pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security's command center regularly monitors social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, popular sites like Hulu, controversial sites including WikiLeaks, and news and commentary sites like The Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document.

Now, there is an indication that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is developing a web application that will have the ability to monitor social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Such an application supposedly will give the FBI intelligence about potential security threats.

Quick Legal Research is Best Done On WestlawNext iPad App

The WestlawNext iPad app has undergone a bit of a makeover, and the new changes are getting rave reviews.

The biggest enhancement is the app's new offline capabilities. No longer do you need to carry a stack of case law and statutes when you're away from your desk. Now you can save documents to your iPad and view them offline.

You can even make notes and continue highlighting -- all new edits will be ported to your online account once you reconnect to the Internet.