Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

August 2014 Archives

Can You 'Share' Your 'Rental' with the Disabled?

By now, hopefully we've grown up and realized the fiction that is the "sharing" economy; that is, it's not a lot of "sharing" but a lot of "regular economy."

The San Francisco Chronicle pored through Airbnb's data for that city and found that, far from letting Mom and Pop rent out a spare room, two thirds of the listings were for entire houses or apartments, and one third of the "sharers" listed multiple rentals. (Although, as the Chron acknowledges, many different individual renters hire one of a few property management companies to handle the rentals -- but isn't that also a problem when you have to hire a property management company?)

Cloud Storage Price Wars: Best Free and Paid Options

Remember when everyone offered free email? At a certain point, it didn't matter which one you picked because they were all free. The only differentiator was feature set, and for a while, all the freebies (Hotmail, Yahoo) looked exactly the same ... until Gmail shook things up and everyone else played catch-up.

To a certain extent, we have the same thing happening with cloud storage: it's space, on the Internet, to store your files. DropBox was revolutionary, but now there are fifty-seven* companies offering the exact same service. How bad is the market saturation? Here's a breakdown of your choices for free and paid service, respectively.

Is Not Understanding e-Discovery Unethical?

We previously wondered whether failing to keep up with technology could subject a lawyer to discipline or malpractice. There aren't a whole lot of state bar opinions on the topic. Really, the only time a court has weighed in was Zubulake v. UBS Warburg (Zubulake V), where a federal district court admonished in-house counsel for not knowing how the corporation's backup tape retention system worked, leading to the loss of highly probative evidence. Counsel failed so spectacularly that the court granted a jury instruction allowing jurors to infer that the really sexy smoking guns the plaintiff wanted were contained on those tapes.

In order to make clear that lawyers need to know what they're doing, the State Bar of California has adopted a Formal Opinion on lawyers' duties to handle electronic discovery, in order to delineate what a lawyer needs to know about e-discovery to remain ethical.

Google Domains Review, Plus How to Get New Top-Level Domains

My invite is here! I'm now a member of the special persons club who are privileged enough to get to pay Google Domains to register a new domain name! Despite that sarcastic tone, I was actually pretty excited to get in the door. The problem is, once I got there, the experience was completely anti-climactic.

Speaking of domain names, perhaps you've seen our excited posts about the wave of new top-level domains (TLDs) coming in the near future. With the ".com" domain selection looking more and more like the San Francisco housing market (there's nothing "trendy" left, investors sell domains for way more than they're worth), perhaps a .esq, .lawyer, or .attorney domain name is in your future?

Good luck with that, because finding and registering new TLDs isn't as easy as clicking over to GoDaddy (yet).

It's a Small World After All

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

It just is not realistically possible for countries to be isolationist in this current era. Indeed, the entire world is interconnected by the Internet and other technologies.

Consider this fact that shows how the world is becoming smaller as we group together even more closely: 3,000 years ago there were about 600,000 independent world communities; now there are fewer than 200 such communities.

And when a disease breaks out like Ebola in Africa, with our means of transportation, such a disease can show up and infect people in distant other places.

Executors to Get Access to Testators' Digital Assets in Del.

Distributing assets in a will is easy enough, but a testator's social media accounts, and their associated assets, aren't exactly amenable to being put in a box and handed over to the heirs.

Further complicating the social media picture is that there's no uniform way to access the account once the owner has died. Each platform has different procedures in place. For example, Facebook won't give out login information for a dead person, but it will delete an account or "memorialize" it, which allows only confirmed friends to see it or find it.

Windows 9 'Threshold' Set for Public Beta Next Month

It looks like we're on the threshold ... of Threshold.

The next version of Microsoft Windows, code-named Threshold, is set for a "technology preview" in late September or early October, reports ZDnet. That's fancy geek speak for a beta or pre-release testing version, and like Apple did last month, Microsoft will make the beta public.

That's right. You. Me. Anyone who hates Windows 8. We can all test Windows 9 -- though putting testing software on your primary PC is not the brightest idea.

The Jargon-Free Basics of Wireless Network Security for Lawyers

Your wireless network probably isn't very secure. It's not your fault -- they come out of the box semi-secure, with just enough settings enabled to lull you into thinking that your home or office network is safe and sound. It might be, but you probably want to be sure, don't you?

Now, we don't want to make you cry by tossing out complicated discussions on encryption -- no AES, TKIP, or LMNOP here.

Here are some plain and simple tips, with as little tech lingo as possible, to help you double-check your network's security protocol:

5 Simple Word-Processing Programs That May Work Better for You

Remember the days of classic WordPerfect? In DOS? Does anyone remember DOS? Bueller? Bueller?

Both modern-day Microsoft Word and WordPerfect have a lot of fancy geegaws that you can distract yourself with when you have to write. Ooh, look! I can play with the fonts! Ooh, look! I can adjust the styles! With a deadline quickly approaching, it can be better to hearken back to the days where it was just you and the white-on-blue glow of the text.

So if you can't afford to waste time setting your margins just so, here are five "distraction-free" word-processing programs that eliminate the extra stuff you're tempted to play with:

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

Gone are the days when some companies may decide to take lightly the responsibility to safeguard private data. Indeed, many companies have been very earnest in complying with U.S. privacy rules when it comes to sensitive data such as health and financial information.

But how are U.S. companies doing when it comes to protecting European data? Not so well, according to a recent complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

4 Reasons Law Students Shouldn't Waste Money on a Tablet

I must admit: I initially didn't understand the tablet craze. When Apple announced the iPad, I was like, "Uh, it's like a half-functional computer. And I have a smartphone. Why?" Eventually, I got an iPad 2 as a gift and it was like crack during bar review -- I never put the damn thing down. And then the novelty wore off, I sold it, and then got a smaller Android tablet, one which quickly began to collect dust.

It's not just me either. Tablet sales are slowing now that the market is saturated. Consumers are starting to ask, "Do I really need to upgrade?" Or better yet, "Do I really need one?" After all, the trend in smartphones, even at Apple, is bigger "phablet" screens.

The answer to both of those questions, dear law students, is "no." Here's why:

Google Leaves Post-It Notes Detailing How It Will Steal Secrets

There's an old, apocryphal story about a guy who was bitten by bedbugs in a train sleeper car. He wrote a letter to the railroad president. The railroad president wrote back, saying it was the first time he had ever heard of such a thing happening, he had ordered all the rail cars fumigated, and promised it would never happen again. The president also accidentally included a copy of the sender's original letter, on which was written, in the railroad president's hand, "Send this SOB the bedbug letter."

Earlier this week, Google launched the "bedbug letter" into the 21st century when it returned documents containing trade secrets to the original owner -- along with several incriminating Post-It notes revealing its plans for the newly acquired secrets.

Are Lawyers Ethically Bound to Keep Up With Technology?

Can being a Luddite expose a lawyer to discipline? Maybe, said ABA members at a program during the group's annual meeting in Boston, pointing to a recent revision to the ABA's Model Rules as the culprit.

In 2012, the ABA modified Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 (that "a lawyer shall provide competent representation to the client") to require lawyers to "keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology" (emphasis added).

Andrew Perlman, the Ethics 20/20 Commission's reporter (and a professor at Suffolk University Law School) emphasized reasonableness as the standard: "You don't have to be paranoid. No one is expecting you to be perfect." But what is reasonable when it comes to lawyers understanding technology?

Rise of 'Stingray' Cell-Phone Trackers Prompt FCC Probe

The "Stingray" is a neat little device that fools a cell phone into connecting to it as though it were a cellular phone tower. Once connected, the Stingray can record the device's unique ID, monitor the device's traffic, and even triangulate the cell phone's position.

It's also questionably legal. In June, unsealed documents revealed that Florida police were caught lying about using information from a Stingray to obtain warrants. As Ars Technica reports, officers were instructed to "refer to the assistance as 'received information from a confidential source regarding the location of the suspect.'" They were also told never to refer to the Stingray in police documents and to re-submit warrant affidavits that referred to them, according to the ACLU.

Lies notwithstanding, we still don't know any more about Stingrays, and now the FCC wants to get involved.

Legal Shark Week: 3 Ways to Be a Tech-Savvy Shark

It's FindLaw's "Legal Shark Week" which means, like it or not, you're going to see a lot of shark-themed posts. If you were traumatized as a kid by the movie "Jaws," we apologize in advance.

Today's topic? Three ways you can be a tech-savvy shark, starting with social media, and continuing with metadata and e-discovery. And as you'll see, these tips aren't just for the fiercest predators -- some of them are actually necessary to be a competent guppy:

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

Thumb drives, keyboards, and mice, oh my! That's right, these USB devices now may be the latest "lions, tigers, and bears" to fear in our high-tech world.

According to a recent Reuters article, such USB devices possibly can be compromised to hack into personal computers in a previously unknown form of attack that supposedly can side-step current security precautions.

The Edward Snowden fallout continues. In June, we posted about Reset the Net, a campaign to increase privacy to "stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday Internet."

Last week we saw Black Hat and DEF CON wrap up and with it, two very important announcements regarding encryption and spy-free email. Privacy, it seems, may not be a longshot after all.

First Impressions After 2 Weeks With OS X Yosemite

It's been two weeks. Two weeks running Apple's beta version of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, set for wide release this fall. (Well, almost two weeks -- it took 24 hours to actually download the software, but I digress.) Two weeks of flat design, upgraded features, and surprisingly few bugs for a beta version.

What's the verdict? OS X 10.10 is the iOS-ification of the desktop operating system: flat design, thinner fonts, and a few other features pulled from the mobile OS, and it's surprisingly fantastic.

Who Owns the Monkey Selfie? (Spoiler Alert: Probably Not the Human)

The world got a crash course in copyright law earlier this week when David Slater, a British photographer, requested that the Wikimedia foundation take down a photograph snapped by a macaque.

The "monkey selfie" was born when Slater set up his camera in an Indonesian forest and came back later to find that monkeys had snatched it and were snapping pictures, The Washington Post reports.

While Slater claims that he owns the rights to the photograph, Wikimedia insists that the work isn't owned by anyone -- because it was taken by a monkey.

Adam Carolla Won't Dismiss 'Patent Troll' Podcast Suit

In the 1990s, Jim Logan started a company called Personal Audio, and this was his idea: Pick your favorite newspaper or magazine articles, and he'll send you audio versions of those articles -- through the mail -- on cassette tapes. NPR's Planet Money first reported on Logan's failed business venture last year because Logan claimed his patent over this article-to-audio format covered podcasts too.

Personal Audio sued some famous podcasts, including Adam Carolla's and HowStuffWorks. To other podcasters, Personal Audio sent letters demanding license fees.

Carolla has raised more than $400,000 for what he calls the "Save Our Podcasts Legal Defense Fund," which he intended to use to litigate Personal Audio's claims. Coincidentally (read: not that coincidentally), Personal Audio asked to dismiss its case against Carolla, but Carolla refused.

Fall Laptop Buyers' Guide: 5 Tips and Picks

It's time for classes! Or, if you're a bit older, maybe it's time to upgrade your aging laptop. But there are so many things to consider, besides price: touchscreen, solid state drives, RAM, processor, weight, battery life, screen size, operating system, and build quality -- where do you begin?

Not to worry. Here are five tips and picks to simplify things greatly:

Child Porn Case Raises the Question: Is Gmail Really Private?

Most people don't like child pornography, but they do like privacy. The arrest of a 41-year-old Houston man last week created just such a conundrum after it was revealed Google found pornographic photos in Gmail attachments and alerted police, apparently all on its own.

How did the company do it? No one is quite sure, but at least one person -- Houston police Det. David Nettles -- just doesn't care. "I really don't know how they do their job," Nettles told KHOU-TV. "But I'm just glad they do it."

A lovely sentiment, Detective Nettles, but some of us -- especially lawyers worried about privileges -- really would like to know "how they do their job."

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

Internet ads can be annoying. At times, for example, you may be seeking to read an article or watch a video clip online, but first you have to click off an advertisement that is in the way, or you have to wait out a video ad before you can watch the video content of your choosing.

Perhaps these ads once in a while may be successful in gaining your interest to buy the advertised products, but certainly most of the time these ads simply are a nuisance and a waste of time.

But (and there always is a "but") there can be Internet "ads" that truly are beneficial. What, really? Yes, really! So, what am I talking about? This:

Warning: eJuror Email Scam Hits Federal Court Districts Nationwide

There is not a single reputable business or government agency in existence that will ask for your Social Security number and other private identifying information over email. And if there is, the people running that agency are really, really stupid.

Newsflash folks: That email that appears to have come from your local United States District Court? The one notifying you that you've been selected for jury duty and asking you to send a whole bunch of private information or face fines and jail time? It's fake. Tell your friends, clients, and relatives, just in case.

GM, Ford Sued by Music-Industry Group Over 'CD-Ripping' Vehicles

A device installed in many GM and Ford vehicles has driven a music-industry group to seek a court's intervention.

The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies, an organization that collects fees levied on the sale of home recording devices, has filed a class action complaint accusing Ford and General Motors of placing certain types of hard drives in its cars without paying the requisite fees. The drives in question are "capable of making a digital audio copied recording for private use," the lawsuit asserts.

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