Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

December 2012 Archives

Mark Zuckerberg's Sister Flips Out Over Facebook Photo Privacy

Over Christmas, Mark Zuckerberg's older sister Randi Zuckerberg posted a "private" photo of a family gathering on Facebook.

The photo was innocent enough, as it showed several members of the Zuckerberg family gathered in the kitchen and having a good time. Randi also tagged her relatives in the pic, including brother Mark.

But unbeknownst to Randi, the photo apparently popped up in the Facebook feed of someone named Callie Schweitzer. Schweitzer then proceeded to tweet it to 40,000 of her followers, reports Forbes. As you can imagine, the photo suddenly went viral. Randi Zuckerberg's reaction to the innocent photo going public didn't help matters either.

Top 5 Funny, Fake Twitter Accounts That Lawyers Should Follow

Fake Twitter accounts are everywhere, and while they may raise some legal concerns, they also make for some funny legal commentary.

There are parody Twitter accounts of famous celebrities in a variety of fields who speak their minds, or at least what we hope they're thinking. So long as they make sure everyone knows it's a parody account, we're happy to laugh along.

It's not just actors and directors who have parody accounts poking fun at their personalities. There are some great legal parody Twitterati out there as well. Here are our Top 5:

3 Reminders About Ebook Legal Rights

You may not pay attention to the legal rights for most Christmas gifts you receive. But if you're one of millions who received an ebook for the holidays, knowing about the legal rights to ebooks is particularly important.

That's because purchasers of ebooks can be more aptly compared to renters and licensees than outright owners, reports the Los Angeles Times.

So unlike your TV or sweater, there are legal restrictions over what you can and cannot do with an ebook. Here are three reminders about an ebook owner's legal rights:

Apple's Proposed Samsung Ban Rejected by U.S. Judge

In the latest round of the Apple/Samsung lawsuit in Silicon Valley, Apple was the loser after it lost a petition to ban the sale of certain Samsung devices.

Shortly after the jury ruled in Apple's favor earlier this year, the company filed a motion asking the judge to ban the sale of Samsung's smartphones in the United States. Last week, Judge Lucy Koh rejected the request.

The ruling is the first in a series of decisions Judge Koh will be making in the coming weeks and months. Her first finding may set an unhappy precedent for Apple.

Should Police Officers Be Armed With iPads?

New York City courts are overloaded. There are long delays to resolve cases and many cases are dismissed or are pleaded to much lesser offenses due to mistakes and inefficiencies. Would giving iPads to police officers solve this problem?

In a recent The New York Times op-ed piece, a law student stated the case for giving the popular consumer device to police officers. He argued how arming cops with tablets would promote the efficiency of the justice system, lower costs, and reduce errors.

Here are three ways an iPad can help, as argued by law student Steve Cohen:

FTC Issues 8 New Rules to Protect Children's Online Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission is making good on its threats to take action with regard to children's Internet privacy. The FTC has issued new online privacy rules that amend COPPA, set to take effect July 1.

COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, will soon include eight new rules to strengthen kids' privacy on the web. The newly adopted rules are also intended to give parents greater control over their children's personal information, according to the FTC.

The updates come shortly after the FTC scolded app makers for failing to adequately protect childrens' personal data. Now companies will have to do more to keep kids safe. The new rules include:

Instagram's New Terms of Service Trigger Instant Backlash

Instagram's new terms of service and privacy policy were posted for a less than a day before users of the popular photo-sharing service started crying foul.

The online uproar led the company to post on its official blog that it would soon "modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos."

The terms at issue aren't especially different from what similar companies have adopted in terms of user privacy and advertising. But it's some additional language that has users worried about how the terms will affect them.

This kind of online privacy panic has happened before, but the specifics of Instagram's new terms may warrant additional worry. It may even require people to get help from an attorney.

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

With Christmas coming, many of us are thinking about smartphones and tablet computers as gifts for our loved ones and even ourselves. But we do not tend to think about the airwaves needed for those devices to receive signals and download data.

Not to worry, though: Your technology companies are making the case to Congress that additional airwaves need to be opened up.

App-y Holidays: 10 Useful Apps for Lawyers

The holidays can be a little slow in terms of new clients, so it's a good time to update your office and equipment, including finding the best new apps for lawyers.

Your smartphone or tablet already does a lot, but it could probably do even more for you if you just knew which apps were best. So we've rounded up our top 10 useful apps for lawyers; it's our holiday gift to you.

Big firm or solo, family law or business transactions, there are apps here for every lawyer. Just choose the ones that are right for you and you'll be on your way to a very happy (and "app"-y) holiday.

In UN Internet Treaty Talks, It's the West vs. the World

It now appears that the UN's proposed Internet treaty will fail, given opposition by many delegates from Western nations including the United States, the UK, and Canada.

The treaty was proposed at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, a summit being held in Dubai. It deals with telecommunications and the Internet, and has been a topic of hot debate over the past two weeks.

Negotiations hit a rough patch over the potential inclusion of language about "human rights obligations." Then Wednesday night, the United States and other countries announced that they could not support the treaty, citing some serious concerns.

Microphones on Buses Raise Surveillance, Security Concerns

As if there wasn't enough government surveillance of citizens, now some cities are installing microphones on public buses.

Using funds from the Department of Homeland Security, cities including San Francisco and Baltimore are updating bus surveillance systems with audio-recording capabilities. That means passengers' conversations can be surreptitiously taped and saved for later use.

Bus companies are in favor of the move, but civil liberties groups beg to differ. They're worried about how all this surveillance could be used against us.

FTC: Apps for Kids Need More Privacy Disclosures

The Federal Trade Commission already has fairly strict regulations for children on the Internet, and it looks like they may do the same with mobile apps for kids.

Back in February the FTC reported that apps made for kids weren't meeting expectations when it comes to disclosures. The agency wanted greater information for parents about data privacy prior to download and on the app itself.

It's been almost year now, but the FTC's new report isn't any more positive. A random survey of 200 apps with the keyword "kids" gave the FTC some interesting information about how developers treat these users. The results weren't good.

Apple Maps Get Drivers Stranded Down Under: Aussie Police

Stories about travelers following Apple Maps and getting lost are usually funny. However, when Apple Maps get you stranded in the middle of nowhere, with literally no food or water nearby, it may drive you to desperation.

Drivers in Australia looking for the city of Mildura were repeatedly misled by Apple Maps, which erroneously directed them to drive into the middle of Murray Sunset National Park, reports Bloomberg.

While the national park may be beautiful and a tourist destination in itself, unprepared travelers may be in for a life and death surprise. The park is extremely remote and along with the scarcity of water, temperatures there can reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

Tumblr is a Website where users can share photos, music, videos, quotes and posts, all of which can be customized with different colors and themes.

On its “About” page, Tumblr boldly suggests that users “follow the world’s creators.” With only 128 employees, Tumblr boasts 83.7 million blogs, 37.4 billion posts and a whopping 18.1 billion monthly page views.

So, all is well and good in Tumblr land, right? Perhaps most of the time. However, last week a worm struck Tumblr and infected some of the most widely read blogs, including those of CNET, Reuters and USA Today, as reported by CNET.

Border Searches of Digital Devices Facing Closer Scrutiny

Before holiday travel gets into full swing, it might be good to warn your clients that their laptops and digital devices may be subject to a border search if they travel abroad.

That's true for now, though it may not be the case for long.

Border searches are an important part of national security, and traditionally involve a search of both people and property entering the United States. For tech-savvy travelers, that also means their electronic devices can sometimes be seized and searched. But an upcoming court ruling could change that.

What Is Metadata and How Can It Affect Your Case?

Image metadata is what led to software pioneer John McAfee's arrest, which has led a lot of people, especially lawyers, to ask what metadata is and how it may affect litigation.

It's not an incomprehensible technology, but it is a powerful tool for finding information about digital documents and images. Unless you take the time to strip it out, there is revealing metadata on every digital file you have, including briefs and evidence photos.

You don't want to give anything away about your own case, but you also want to know how to get this information from your opponents. So it's time for a crash course in metadata.

John McAfee Arrested After Metadata Mistake

John McAfee was arrested yesterday by Guatemalan police for illegally entering the country.

The antivirus pioneer now faces expulsion to the neighboring country of Belize, where he is wanted for questioning about the murder of his neighbor, reports Slate.

The neighbor's murder and McAfee's subsequent disappearance have all been strangely captivating, as McAfee kept a running blog during his three weeks on the lam. Fittingly, the circumstances leading to his capture were also highly unusual -- not to mention ironic for the man whose name is synonymous with data security.

Judge OKs Facebook's $20M 'Sponsored Stories' Settlement

It appears Facebook is on the cusp of a privacy settlement after months of negotiation over a class-action lawsuit.

There have been a number of lawsuits against Facebook, but this is the one about user privacy and Facebook's "Sponsored Stories" -- an ad campaign in which Facebook took the names and pictures of users who "liked" a company's product and then used it to advertise to the users' friends.

When users found out their names and likeness was being used without permission, things got ugly. The new proposed settlement attempts to rectify that issue.

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

Perhaps concerned about the potential for further iterations of anti-piracy laws, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) has proposed on Reddit legislation called the Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA). The IAMA would seek to put an end to further Internet legislation for two years.

Indeed, part of the bill reads as follows:

When Should Lawyers Put Down Their Smartphones and Pick Up a Pen?

When was the last time you picked up a pen and a pad of paper? Attorneys these days are armed with any number of high-tech tools. Laptops, iPads, and smartphones are all useful gadgets for any lawyer's tool belt. Why write things down, when you can just type notes onto your smartphone?

Well, maybe because there are some benefits to handwriting documents, as Fast Company has pointed out. Some benefits are even applicable to hardworking attorneys.

Here are just a few: