Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

July 2013 Archives

Microsoft Office for Android is Here (Kinda); SkyDrive Rebranding

We weren’t particularly impressed with Microsoft’s attempt at Office for iPhones. Well, let's be honest: we didn't actually try Microsoft for iOS.

We know, we know.

It wasn't out of laziness, however. It was because Microsoft (a) only released it for iPhones and (b) required an expensive $100 per year Office 365 subscription to use the app. We have neither.

It May Say 'Windows', But Your Firm Should Avoid Win RT Devices

The obituaries for Windows RT devices have been coming steady and frequently over the last few months. The offshoot version of Windows, meant for low power tablet (ARM) processors, was supposed to give Microsoft a presence in the tablet market. Instead, it's sent their stock plummeting and partner companies into hiding.

Despite the near-certainty of impending firesales, we'll warn you now: don't purchase Windows RT devices for your law firm.

Alleged Pedo's Computer Gets Locked by Virus, Turns Himself In

Has there ever been a more brilliant hacking scam in the history of America, or the world, for that matter?

Ransomware is a virus that takes over your computer, locks the screen and all functionality, and then demands a ransom before it (sometimes) returns control over your computer. Sometimes, when payment is sent, an unlock code is passed to a server, which then releases the "kidnapped" system. Other times, they'll take the money and run.

UpCounsel, a service that matches small to mid-sized businesses with attorneys, was started in 2012. CEO Matt Faustman stated that he co-founded UpCounsel to provide affordable legal services to small business owners, reports Small Business Trends. So how does it work?

Business owners log-on to UpCounsel and post a free job listing seeking particular legal work. Lawyers who have registered, and passed the screening process, are then able to bid and submit quotes on each job. The business owner makes a selection, and the job is managed and paid through UpCounsel.

Meet Google Helpouts: Your New Virtual Law Office Platform?

You've heard of Google Hangouts, right? It started as Google's group video-conferencing platform, and eventually merged with the company's other messaging apps to become an all-in-one messaging platform that provides free text, photo, or video-based chat with individuals or groups.

Think Skype, but with a lot more features.

Now, Google's reportedly considering expanding the idea into paid Hangout sessions, called Helpouts, reports TechCrunch. The "secret" unreleased product, which is reportedly in testing, allows professionals, tutors, and others to charge people for their time on the camera. To us, that immediately screams: Virtual Law Office!

Google's Breakfast Meeting: New Nexus 7, Android 4.3, TV Device

Our only question is: where’s our invite?

Today, over breakfast, Google announced a flurry of product launches and updates, including their much-adored 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, a major update to the Android operating system, a cheap video streaming device, and a few other goodies.

For lawyers and other working professionals, the updated Nexus 7 is the most exciting development. For students, Google Play Textbooks might be even more significant.

Bitcasa is a Brilliant Encrypted Unlimited Cloud Storage Option

Mr. or Ms. Lawyer: what's your number one concern for your data, including client files? It's probably security. Or privacy.

You'll also want reliability, ease of use, and app availability. After all, if you're going to use this service for professional purposes, it would be nice if your Apple-obsessed paralegal and your Android-obsessed self can access your files in harmony.

And of course, you'll want a reasonable price.

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

American universities are being bombarded by cyberattacks, according to a recent New York Times article.

These universities are being hit with millions of hacking attempts per week, and some of those attempts have succeeded in obtaining personal and other data.

Unfortunately, at times these data compromises are not discovered until long after the fact, if at all.

NSA Phone Tracking is Even More Extensive Than We Thought

Six degrees of separation? More like 4.74, per a study of Facebook users done in 2011.

What does that have to do with the National Security Agency? It turns out they've been tracking phone records for up to "three hops" from each terror suspect, reports GigaOm. If it only takes 4.74 hops to reach any other person on the planet (or at least any other Facebooker, which is more than one-tenth of the world's population), that's a pretty significantly large cohort of individuals caught up in the NSA fishing expedition.

If the hops-and-degrees perspective isn't clear, think about it like this: every phone number the terrorist calls, every number those recipients call, and every number those recipients call. Exponential isn't a big enough word to describe the scope of surveillance.

In Consero's 2013 survey of 52 Fortune 1000 general counsel, one of the issues at the top of everyone's list was cyber security. The Association of Corporate Counsel came to a similar conclusion in its 2013 survey of when 72% of attorneys surveyed found data breaches and protection were of serious importance in the coming year.

Protecting your infrastructure from cyber attacks is not just a governmental concern; with all of the sensitive and private information that law firms have, protection from cyber attack should be a top priority. So, what should you do to protect yourself, your firm and your clients?

All Private Everything (Else): Apps, Services, Social Networking

You've picked up a burner SIM card, installed it in your BlackBerry, and tossed your tablet device. You're also reading this on a Linux-running computer. You've completed the first step of All Private Everything, a mental exercise meant to see how possible it would be to switch to hardware, software, and services that are untainted by PRISM and other NSA activity.

As far as we know. (Cue dark music.)

Back to the practical: Your devices are now set up, but what services and software are left? After all, Google's world domination includes your entire online life! Don't fret: here are some alternatives for everything, from web browsers to email to social networking.

All Private Everything: PRISM-Free Phones and Operating Systems

This is a fun thought. With PRISM probing into the data held by nearly every major tech company (despite their resistance), are there private alternatives? After all, with the major tech players buying up significant startups, your entire digital existence may be owned by two or three companies.

Personally, I'm carrying a Google Nexus Android phone and tablet, using Gmail (personal) and Google Apps (professional) for my email, contacts, and calendaring needs, and Google Chrome for my web-browsing. Google Voice handles my voicemail and text messaging. Google owns my digital life. With their questionable privacy policy, and PRISM involvement, at what point do I call it quits and move on?

Here are the rules of the game: Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, and Dropbox are all off the market, as they are either PRISM participants (willing or not) or are scheduled to join. That leaves us with just about no one. But...

Yahoo! Wins Battle To Unseal PRISM Files; PR War Rages On

The first impression is often the longest-lasting. Because of that truism, and a bit of misinformation about the government’s secret PRISM program, Yahoo! and a number of other major tech companies will be fighting an uphill battle to regain their reputation amongst the increasingly disgruntled public.

Yahoo! has just won the first battle in that long war, as they won a motion yesterday to declassify the original court documents in their PRISM case, reports CNET. Five years ago, Yahoo! went to court to fight the government order that required them to join PRISM, citing concerns over users’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

And while users’ faith in complete security may never return, release of the documents may go a long way towards repairing Yahoo!’s reputation.

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

Microsoft is serious when it comes to software pirates. Indeed, it has just reported that it has reached settlements in more than 3,000 copyright infringement matters that it initiated globally in the past year alone.

The vast majority of the cases were international, spanning 42 countries. In fact, only 35 of the 3,265 cases were in the United States.

JOBS Act: Startup Investment Solicitation Legal; Crowdfunding TBA

When the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was announced, it promised to quash a number of Securities and Exchange regulations that had made startup company funding an arduous process restricted to the most well-connected angel investors and venture capitalists. It would allow startups to publicly sell stakes in their private companies, and allow crowdfunding (like what we’ve seen on Kickstarter) for the company itself, rather than for a product or project.

For the tech industry, this should mean a massive power shift. No longer will tech-geeks turned entrepreneurs have to hand over control and a massive stake in their company to one of the few investors legally allowed to buy in. Now, with the first changes implemented via new SEC rules released last week, and crowdfunding supposedly coming soon, for better or worse, the Zuckerbergs of the world will stay in charge and can solicit funding, before going public, from individual investors.

If you're like most other attorneys, then we're guessing that your day goes something like this: wake up and check email, go to work and check email, stare at a computer all day, come home and check email, spend some time on Facebook/Instagram/Candy Crush Saga (or insert other mindless, addictive activity here). We probably spend more time looking at a screen than interacting with people.

On top of that you're probably pushing eighty-hours per week. Is it surprising that you feel burnt out? There are lots of new fads when it comes to wellness, from office yoga to juice cleanses. The newest one on the block? Digital Detox.

Ranting About Software Companies Adopting Subscription Models

I'm cheap. Or stingy. Or frugal. Whatever you want to call it, the idea of paying a monthly or annual fee for software irks me beyond belief.

In the old days, you'd buy software on a floppy disk or a CD-Rom. You'd own it. Occasionally, you'd perhaps update it via the Internet. Every few years, when a "must have" feature was added, you'd pay for the upgrade. Now, software is moving into a perpetual update model where new features are added and updated sporadically, and where the software was once a one-time cost, companies are beginning to charge annual fees to cover that perpetual development.

Apple Loses E-Book Price Fixing Suit; Drops 'App Store' Lawsuit

Apple's lawyers may want to make vacation plans now, because their docket just cleared.

In an expected ruling, especially in light of the judge's pretrial statements regarding the strength of Apple's case, Judge Denise Cote ruled against Apple earlier today. The government alleged that Apple conspired with publishers to fix e-book prices and force other retailers, such as Amazon and Google, to adopt an agency and commission model, where the publisher sets (typically higher) prices.

After Apple entered the market, and the publishers hiked prices in unison, consumers paid average increased prices of 18 percent across the board, reports Ars Technica.

Leaks, FISA Curb State Secrets Privilege in EFF Wiretap Lawsuit

The state secrets privilege dates back to common law and, in recent history, has acted as a “get out of litigation free” card for governmental misconduct. The much-needed yet much-abused privilege allows the government to use the need for secrecy in matters of national security and military operations to quash litigation, either entirely, or by exclusion of evidence necessary to prove a plaintiff’s prima facie case.

Unfortunately, the privilege has been abused in the past by the government. In one notable case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals applied the privilege to a case involving the Air Force’s mishandling of hazardous waste — a matter arguably not of the type originally contemplated by the original privilege.

Ironically, the much-maligned Foreign Intelligence Security Act, which created the “secret courts,” and further developed our surveillance state, seems to have curbed the state secrets privilege abuse, at least if last week’s preliminary rulings by a district court in Jewel v. NSA and Shubert v. Obama hold through the end of the case.

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

Last week, you were informed about the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updating advertising disclosure guidance for search engines. But there's more! On July 1, new FTC rules went into effect that are intended to provide greater privacy protection for children online. Indeed, the rules are supposed to afford increased safeguards when it comes to data such as geo-location and social media information.

By way of background, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) became operative in 2000, in the early days of the commercial Internet. The law was designed to enable parents to control personal information collected from these young children in hopes that COPPA would prevent children under the age of 13 from being targeted via personalized online marketing messages.

All well and good?

Privacy Group Goes Straight to SCOTUS With FISC Verizon Petition

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is an odd legal beast. It is a court, a federal court, staffed by eleven federal district court judges, but it is not subject to review by any open federal courts. It is, however, reviewed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which does such a thorough job, that it didn't meet for the first time until 2002, despite being authorized in 1978. The FISC and FISC Review forums are closed, with only the government and the recipients of surveillance orders allowed access.

What does a private citizen, with rights allegedly violated by unconstitutional surveillance, do when a secret court, with locked doors, approves the violations?

'Master Key' Security Hole Affects 99 Percent of Android Phones

Rule No. 1 for smartphones: Only install applications from trusted sources (such as Apple's App Store, Google Play, or Amazon's App Store).

Bluebox Security has just released some thankfully vague details on what might be the biggest security flaw in smartphones to date -- a coding bug that could allow a hacker to change the code in an app without being detected by the system, allowing that hacker to take control of the phone, its functions (such as calls and data), and its data (emails, passwords, etc.).

The trick is to change the code inside the app's installation package without modifying its "crypographic signature." How one goes about doing this isn't clear, nor are their any reports of this trick being used so far. Bluebox notified Google about the flaw back in February, and since then, their Google Play app store has been patched to prevent the dissemination of hacked apps. The Galaxy S4 has also been patched, reports TechCrunch. The security company plans to release more extensive details at an upcoming hacking conference.

Massive Updates for Microsoft OneNote Across All Platforms

Note-taking apps are a matter of personal taste. Some only want simple “Post-it” style notes and are ardent Google fans. For that, Keep is perfect.

Others want to incorporate snippets of web pages, audio clips, photos, and robustly-formatted text and charts. Those users, for the longest time, have been attached to Microsoft OneNote, though the bare mobile apps made many flee to upstart Evernote.

With this week’s massive updates across the OneNote line, that gap in mobile features has shrunk and the question of which app to use has become even more murky.

Patent Trolls Go Shopping? Macy's Sued for Search Engine

The department store giant Macy’s is being accused of patent infringement over employing search technology that allows customers on their websites to “search-on-the-fly.”

The suit was brought by New York-based Smart Search Concepts LLC, the owner of two search-engine patents who has also sued several other department stores (including Kohl’s and Nieman Marcus) for infringing on their patents, reports Cincinnati’s WCPO.

Is Smart Search Concepts a patent troll and if so, how will Macy’s avoid paying the troll toll?

Think Geek? Our New Legal Technology Google+ Community is For You

Lawyers and tech geeks. The two don’t always meet. There are still, after all, technophobic partners that dictate correspondence, but when they do, it’s a beautiful thing. For our nation’s burgeoning technology industry (one of only a few industries we have left), techie-lawyers speak their language, as well as the language of intellectual property law. For the rest of our nation’s citizens, we’re the sort of hyper-efficient types that use tech to make our services cheaper, quicker, and more reliable.

We’re a growing niche, and we need a place to share techie-lawyer thoughts. From intellectual property law news, to landmark tech cases and lawsuits, and even hardware and software reviews, our new Legal Technology group on Google+ is a great place to catch up on the latest trends or share your own thoughts or stories.

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

Back at the dawn of the commercial Internet era in 2002, the Federal Trade Commission provided guidance to search engines in terms of differentiating between true search results and advertisements. However, over the past 11 years, the FTC has determined that search results and advertisements have become less distinguishable from each other.

Accordingly, in correspondence recently sent to major search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and AOL, the FTC has updated its 2002 guidance.

Mobile Lawyering: 3G/4G Data, Lessons From Working on the Road

Greetings from a flyover state! (It’s OK. I’m from Missouri. I can say that.)

One of the greatest tech innovations of the last decade has been cellular data connections. Ten years ago, you’d be tethered to an Ethernet cable at your office, or hoping that Starbucks would have one of those fancy Wi-Fi networks that would allow you to check your email on the go (at an incredibly slow speed).

Today, with the right equipment, you can have high-speed Internet anywhere (well, almost anywhere, so long as you aren’t in Southern Utah). However, if you are going to rely upon mobile Internet for purposes of telecommuting or lawyering on-the-go, here are a few lessons I learned the hard way, during this trip to my dear home state: