Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

April 2014 Archives

Google Stops Mining Schools' Gmail Accounts for Advertising

Their customers may have no expectation of privacy when using Gmail, but at least now, the kids are all right. Well, kinda.

Google announced on Wednesday that it had ceased scanning Google Apps for Education users' email for the purposes of delivering targeted ads, reports The Wall Street Journal. Though the company never placed advertisements in users' email accounts, and claims that it never actually used the collected data to deliver ads elsewhere, the collection was scrutinized during the email scanning lawsuit, a dispute that ended with a victory for the tech company last month.

The move is the second pro-privacy move by Google in recent weeks, following a rumored scale back of the company's Google+ platform which we discussed yesterday.

Lawyers: Shortcuts Keys Can Make You More Efficient

Can a few shortcut keys make you a more efficient lawyer? It's frustrating to watch a lawyer wasting time schlepping that cursor around with a mouse when he could be blazing like a wizard using shortcut keys. Using the mouse too much also sets you up for repetitive strain injuries.

And for us of course, time is money. So be a wizard. Avoid the mouse with the easy and quick shortcuts below. They have been tested on a Windows system, but many of them work on Macs, too.

Google+ Dead? Is Google Seeing the Light?

For a long while there, Google+ was the bad college party: lots of shiny things, maybe some beer, but nobody showed up. You could join, and add people to your circles, but you'd be all alone in an empty room. Google, wishing to compete with Facebook, was saddened by its lack of popularity.

Then Google turned Google+ into a prerequisite for many of its other services, the most notable of which was the forced YouTube integration, which backfired greatly. It turned out that people didn't want their real life identities plastered on their YouTube comments and playlists.

Late last week, the head of Google+ announced, on the social network, that he was leaving the party. TechCrunch followed up with an inside scoop, noting that Google was gutting the division. What does this mean for the future of Google+ and for their customers' privacy?

Security Warning: Stop Using Internet Explorer

IE 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 , or 11. It doesn't matter which version of Internet Explorer you are using. Stop it.

That's the message from the Department of Homeland Security after a massive security vulnerability was discovered in the browser over the weekend, reports Reuters. The exploit, which piggy-backs on Adobe Flash, could allow a hacker to gain control over your entire computer, which is especially terrifying for those of us with client files stored on our hard drives.

If, for some reason, you were using Internet Explorer, you'll want to take this opportunity to look elsewhere.

Are You a Twittering Lawyer? Your New Profile Has Arrived

The new Twitter profile layout is out -- and it's looking good. Have you taken a look? It's more modern, with bigger text, more images, and more information displayed in a clear way. If you want to check it out, log on to Twitter (on a computer, not on your phone) and you'll get a big notice with the option to switch to the new profile with just one click.

If you don't like it, one click will change it back. (If don't see the big notice, go to your old profile and click on the gearbox. Click on settings and go to "profile." From there, you'll see a link called "your profile." Click on that to switch to the new profile layout.)

In honor of the new profile, here are some quick tips on using Twitter effectively as a lawyer.

One of the most anticipated cases of the term was argued earlier this week before the Supreme Court -- ABC Inc., et al., v. Aereo, Inc.

Aereo charges subscribers a small monthly fee to watch television programming (live or recorded) on their mobile devices. The service works by retransmitting content to subscribers over the Internet using individual dime-sized antennas.

A group of television broadcasters including ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS, filed a complaint in federal court claiming that Aereo's business violates their performance rights under copyright law. They sought a preliminary injunction, which the district court denied.

5 Killer Features in WordPress 3.9 'Smith'

WordPress is, by far, the leading Content Management System (CMS) on the planet. In plain English, it is the platform that 60 percent of the market uses, including such household names as The Washington Post and Time magazine. But it's not just for the big boys -- it powers everything from major media outlets to smaller topical sites, such as law blogs.

The reasons for WordPress' popularity are numerous (it takes only a few minutes to set up, plug-ins make it capable of powering any type of site you can imagine, and it's very user friendly), and with this new update, it just got even better. For do-it-yourself law bloggers, there is no better or easier platform for making and managing a professional online presence.

Here are five killer new WordPress 3.9 "Smith" (named after Jimmy Smith, a jazz organist) features that have us tingling:

Did This Chinese Startup Just Make The Dream Smartphone?

If a friend were to ask for an affordable smartphone recommendation today, my initial response would be "Nexus." In fact, that would be the gut response of most tech geeks, as Google's own devices receive software updates before anyone else, are reasonably priced, and are typically at or near the top of the market specs-wise. An iPhone 5S, off contract, will cost you $650. Most flagship Android devices, off-contract, are in that same range, but the Nexus 5? It starts at $350.

Nexus phones are arguably the best bang for your buck, at least for now. A Chinese startup company, OnePlus, aims to change all of that with its "One," a phone that despite its bland and generic name, kills every other phone on paper. The company's motto is "Never Settle," but do they live up to it?

Attorneys: a Mechanical Keyboard Might Relieve Your Typing Pain

Remember the old IBM Selectric typewriter? The keys felt great, it made satisfying clicking sounds and no one ever complained of repetitive strain injuries. Don't you wish you could type on your computer using an old Selectric?

Oh, you haven't heard of the IBM Selectric? Well, whippersnapper, have you heard of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and tennis elbow? We thought so. As attorneys, we all spend so much of our days in an office, on a keyboard, no matter if we are young or old. We're all in this together, so please read on.

If your keyboard is causing you pain, or if you just want to upgrade that thing you click on for hours every day, it might be time to consider a mechanical keyboard.

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

This blog for years has highlighted the potential risks and liabilities presented by communications and activities on the Internet. The Internet provides the possibility of privacy violations, security breaches, intellectual property disputes, defamation, hack attacks, and even cyber warfare, among other threats.

So what should companies do to be as safe as possible as they conduct business over the Internet?

A Search Engine for Drugs, Guns, and Other Illegal Things!

The biggest pain in the rear about using Tor, the anonymous browser that can access hidden "onion" web pages, such as the now-defunct Silk Road, is finding the actual webpages. URLs on TOR are typically an alphanumeric string followed by .onion, for example, a897as34sdfjl.onion. And since sites come and go, and are spoofed often, so not only are they hard to find, but they're hard to validate.

Grams seems to be a good place to start, if it isn't a government site. The site is a Google-knockoff search engine that indexes the most popular peddlers of illegal goods and services, making it much more likely that you'll be caught  your clients will be caught you'll find what you are looking for, reports Wired.

'Secret' iPhone Features Can Make You a More Productive Lawyer

Ah, the iPhone. It has more power than the computers that took us into interstellar space. Yet, it does not come with a manual. Does its stylish body hide secrets, pehaps even ones that can make you a more productive lawyer?

But, of course! Read on as we pull back the veil on the mysterious rectangle we are all addicted to.

Facebook, like Google, continues to add to its list of services -- Facebook wants to be our everything. And this week news broke that Facebook is weeks away from getting e-wallet approval in Ireland. Is the U.S. next?

And as a California anti-theft kill switch bill gets debated, mobile phone manufacturers take a preemptive stand. But is it enough to prevent theft?

Google's Chrome Remote Desktop: Access Your Computer From Anywhere

Remote desktop apps are not a new thing. Microsoft released a free app for accessing your Windows Desktop from your iOS (Apple) or Android (Google) devices a while back, but it was limited to certain versions of Windows (Professional and Server). Third-party solutions, like Splashtop, have been around for a few years as well, but they cost money.

Yesterday, Google released its own version, one that reportedly works with Windows, Linux, Mac, and Chrome OS, so long as you use Google's Chrome browser. Install a Chrome browser app, give the app pervasive permissions, and install an app on your Android phone or tablet and voilà -- remote access!

We gave it a cursory spin. Here are our first impressions:

Exercise Your Right to Exercise: 3 Gadgets That Can Help

As a lawyer, you're a champion for your client -- so you've got to be in fighting shape. Also, as a lawyer, you're hunched over a desk all day, fighting the battle of the bulge. If you are dealing with either one of these challenges, here are some gadgets to make exercise more doable.

The Striiv Smart Pedometer

This is more than a fancy pedometer -- it's a game that appeals to all the typical lawyer character traits: competitiveness, acquisitiveness, idealism, argumentativeness. Okay, not argumentativeness; you can't debate with it (next version?), but there's a lot about this pedometer that makes it almost addictively motivating.

You're probably all heart bled out, but further news of the biggest Internet security failure is worth noting. So now that the patches are up, and we can shop online and check our email without fear (fingers crossed), it's time to have a little chat and do a -- excuse the phrase -- post mortem on Heartbleed.

We know you went to law school because you hated math, but here's a winning formula of what the not-so-distant future looks like, that even you can get: Password + (option 1 below) or (option 2 below) = Secure Two-Factor Authentication.

Become a Glasshole Today Only! (And How It'll Help Your Practice)

There are a lot of reasons not to buy a Google Glass (available today only), besides the incomprehensible price of $1,500. For example:

But hey, it's not all bad. You get to look like Geordi La Forge! Plus, a few lawyers that took part in the exclusive testing of the product have had their own ideas on how the devices could help their practice.

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

Recently, this blog has touched on how warfare between nations in the digital era includes cyberattacks. And now, just as we already are feeling less than safe, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (the UNODC) has released some homicide statistics that can make us feel even more vulnerable.

According to the UNODC study, as many as 437,000 people were murdered around the world in 2012 alone. Here's what else the study found:

Heartbleed: Many Android Phones at Risk, NSA Exploited the Bug

We apologize in advance if you're suffering from Heartbleed fatigue. It's the biggest issue in tech right now, because it might just be the biggest security failure ever. Remember those annoying email worms? This is worse. This is unlocked doors to secure data, with the majority of the Internet using the broken locks. It effects everything, from online dating, to millions of Android smartphones.

And, of course, where there's a opening, the National Security Agency will work its way in. Two unidentified sources told Bloomberg that the NSA has exploited the bug for years. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence denied the allegations, stating, "Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before 2014 are wrong."

PACERpro, RECAP, and Breaking PACER's Paywall

PACER: Public Access to Court Electronic Records (if you have money to pay).

What is there to say about PACER? It's horridly inefficient, with each court maintaining its own servers. It has an ancient user interface, straight out of the 1980s. And it costs $0.10 per page, which doesn't sound like a big deal, at least until you run a docket search on a big class action case and accidently run up $3.00 in charges with little to no warning.

In short, it sucks. And many people, myself included, think court records should be open and free. PACER, at least for now, won't be, as it's a cash cow for the courts, but third-party solutions exist that will help you to cut down on your bill while archiving copies of the documents for public (and free) consumption.

Today in Legal History: First Patent Act Passed in 1790

The year 1790 was a very different time, but interestingly enough, the first Patent Act passed in the states wasn't that different from today's system. Sure, there were some differences (patent examinations were conducted by the the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General, instead of trained patent examiners), but the system then faced some of the same issues that it does now: patentability, jury trials, and fee-shifting.

As a nod to the history of our beloved Patent Act, here are a few of those issues, along with some possible solutions:

The Time I Got Hacked By Algerian Anonymous: Lessons Learned

Mystery solved.

Why couldn't I log in to my website yesterday? It's because, four days ago, somebody hacked my site and replaced it with some neon green colors, misspelled alphanumeric messages of triumph, and other gibberish.

Congrats. You hacked a nearly empty site that was used for testing WordPress plugins. Total damage caused: about fifteen minutes of time spent logging in to my horridly bad web server and changing a few passwords, plus hitting the "reinstall" button on WordPress.

Yes, I was fortunate, because it was a non-business site. Your law firm's website, however, is far more important. Here are a few things I've learned from the experience:

In Flight Wi-Fi: Now With More Federal Surveillance!

There is a good reason why I've never used in flight Wi-Fi services: I'm cheap. Besides, I can live without the Internet for an hour or three.

But, if you needed another reason, how about this: Gogo and Panasonic Avionics' eXConnect may have added surveillance back doors for federal law enforcement agencies to monitor your Internet traffic. Together, the two companies manage Wi-Fi for Delta, American Airlines, United, Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, US Airways and others.

The program was made possible by the Federal Communications Commission, which has used the possibility of adding rules and restrictions to in-flight Wi-Fi as a gun to the head of the two companies, reports Wired.

Sending confidential client files during that flight? Maybe not.

Docs From Apple v. Samsung Trial Back Bigger, Cheaper Phone Rumors

"Consumers want what we don't have."

The title of that slide, from an Apple internal presentation, has been quoted all across the tech blogs and even mainstream newspapers today. It's a glaring admission by Apple executives that their current iPhone strategy is leading nowhere.

Why? Apple's iPhone models fall directly in the segment of devices that is losing market share. Not coincidentally, rumors have been swirling that Apple could introduce new models that are cheaper, bigger, or both later this year.

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

This blog recently discussed whether international mechanisms exist to award damages caused by potential cyberwars. And now it appears that a cyberwar actually is taking place with respect to Ukraine.

Press accounts have been rampant in terms of the turmoil over Crimea, Russia, and Ukraine. And while there have been possible threats of physical force, there also have been reports of disruption of mobile communications as a result of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Windows Update: Actual Start Menu Returns, 8.1 Usable for Desktops

Much like Windows Vista before it, and Window ME and 98 before that, the current iteration of Windows is one that the populace loves to hate, especially those of us who have desktop PCs and who are focused on productivity. While Windows 8 and 8.1 are visually appealing, and great for content consumption on a tablet, getting work done is a chore, especially if you use a keyboard-and-mouse PC, which most law firms do.

Microsoft tried to make amends with the 8.1 update, bringing back the Start button (which merely brought up that newfangled touch-friendly Windows tile screen) and allowing users to boot to the mouse-friendly desktop. Still, if you ran any of the new "Metro" apps, which are designed for touchscreens, you'd pretty much go insane trying to maneuver or close the darn things.

Well, business users: here it is (or at least will be): a functional update to Windows 8.1 that might make you want to upgrade.

Google Glass has been making headlines lately for where it is getting banned, and the company might soon be able to add another place -- the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). OK, a "ban" is too strong a word, but all of Google's efforts thus far to trademark the word "Glass" have fallen short.

Google Glass Trademark

Google has already successfully registered the term "Google Glass," but it is now trying to register the term "Glass" in that slick typeface you may have seen online. But so far, the USPTO has not registered the trademark. Instead, it sent Google a letter citing several issues with the trademark application.

Anyone who's looked at a magazine or ad campaign knows that no one is Photoshop-free. In some cases, photoshopping models goes too far -- so much so that there is a website devoted to "Photoshop disasters." The debate about whether this kind of photo alteration is appropriate because of the effects on women's self-esteem has been ongoing for some time, but now two legislators in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill to curb the practice.

Truth in Advertising Act: The Proposed Bill

The Truth in Advertising Act, if passed, would direct the Federal Trade Commission to study the practice used by advertisers to alter the facial and body characteristics of the people photographed, "and to develop recommendations and a framework to address it." Working with outside groups who have a stake in such legislation -- such as consumer advocates, industry execs, and medical groups -- the FTC would develop a strategy for reducing the use of overly Photoshopped images.

Microsoft Announces Windows Phone 8.1 With AI Assistant Cortana

Apple has Siri, a virtual assistant with more spunk than actual utility. Google has Google Now, which is a lot of substance and absolutely no style whatsoever. BlackBerry's Voice Assist is barely functional, but the company is rumored to be working on a dedicated virtual assistant for the next version of their operation system.

And Microsoft? Microsoft will now have Cortana, an artificially intelligent personal assistant with a feature set that sounds like Google's, but a personality more like Apple's.

We've heard the rumors about Cortana before, a virtual assitant based off a fictional A.I. character in the videogame series Halo, but yesterday, Microsoft made it official, along with a number of other exciting upgrades to Windows Phone 8.1.

Mozilla Firefox, Gay Marriage, and Online Dating

How do you choose your software? Most likely, you base your choices on functionality and reputation. You'll ask friends or check the Internet for suggestions, try a few alternatives, and use what fits you best.

When do politics hit the equation? If a company took a controversial stance on a divisive issue, would you drop their product? What if it were merely the CEO of a company? What if the stance was a political donation from 2008?

BlackBerry: Resurrecting Curve, 'Typo' Injunction, Nearing Profit?

Yesterday, we brought you a trifecta of Microsoft updates. Today? There's more news from our favorite underdog, BlackBerry, which has finally stopped hemorrhaging cash and may be primed for a comeback.

BlackBerry? Aren't they the folks who made those keyboarded phones that businesspeople used to love? Yep, and they're bringing the old-school devices back, at least for now.

Meanwhile, for those who have moved on to an iPhone, but miss their QWERTY keyboards, there's bad news: Typo, the company that produced a BlackBerry-esque keyboard attachment for iPhones, may be on its deathbed, after a California court granted BlackBerry's request for an injunction.

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

In early 2012, the United States sought a World Trade Organization (WTO) consultation regarding China's restrictions on the export of tungsten and molybdenum -- forms of "rare earths." These rare earths are raw materials that are used in the production of some electronics products. Subsequently, the European Union, Japan and Canada requested to join the consultation. China then accepted the request for a WTO consultation.

In support of the restrictions, China argued that they are related to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources. China also asserted that they are needed to reduce mining pollution.

The complaining countries strongly disagreed, arguing that the restrictions really were designed to provide protected access to the subject materials to Chinese industries.