Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

November 2014 Archives

My Smartphone Just Got Android 5.0 Lollipop: First Impressions

Man, this is a beautiful update.

Android L/Lollipop (5.0) represents the biggest overhaul of the operating system since the jump from Gingerbread (2.x) to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0).  We talked about the visual overhaul after previews of the new "Material Design" interface leaked, and were especially intrigued by rumors of Project Volta: the effort to make my phone last longer than 20 minutes on a battery.

Lollipop is here. And as promised, here are our first impressions:

Copyright Settlement Firm Rightscorp Gets Hit with Class Action

Rightscorp is a company that valiantly pursues copyright infringers in an attempt to get them to pay their fair share for the harm they've caused to copyright owners.

That's one way of looking at it.

Another is that Rightscorp "asks ISPs to disconnect you from the Internet unless you pay it money for alleged, unproven copyright infringements." A class action suit being filed in the Central District of California seeks to figure out the truth.

Happy TechGiving!

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

With modern air travel, it is possible to visit family members and dear friends who live in other parts of the country for Thanksgiving. Indeed, Thanksgiving week is the busiest time of year for airlines and airports.

It is not uncommon for people to think twice about Thanksgiving travel, given the crowds and commotion. And now, much of the country is socked in with blizzards, massive snows, and temperatures well below freezing. These conditions make travel even more daunting, if not impossible in some circumstances.

But, yes, there is a silver lining. Of course, nothing can truly substitute in-person reunions of family and friends during the holidays. Yet, when such gatherings just cannot happen, in comes tech.

WordPress 3.x Security Warning: Malicious Code Hidden in Comments

That annoying comment might be more than spam telling visitors how to solve their intimacy issues, or how to make easy money at home. Instead, it may be malicious code that could hijack your site, lock you out completely, and even take over your server as a whole -- a nightmare for larger companies that store more than a simple webpage on their servers.

Fortunately, the bug, discovered by Finnish IT security company Klikki Oy, was reported to WordPress months before being made public, and security patches are already being automatically (no pun intended) deployed. The bug affects an estimated 86 percent of WordPress sites (those running any unpatched version of WordPress 3 -- version 4.0, which was released in September, are not affected). The exploit uses text input fields, such as the enabled-by-default blog comments feature, to deploy malicious code.

Sen. Al Franken Now Asking Privacy Questions of Uber

On Monday, we learned that Emil Michael, senior vice president of business at Uber, said at a dinner party that he planned to spend "a million dollars" to hire researchers to investigate and harass reporters who wrote stories critical of Uber.

The tone of Michael's statements, as reported by BuzzFeed's Ben Smith, is pretty clear: "They'd look into 'your personal lives, your families,'" he said, implying Uber would spend money to embarrass and expose journalists for the crime of doing their jobs.

Now comes a bizarre twist.

A Rundown of Roca Labs' Defamation Litigation

Have you been following this story? Roca Labs sells "neutraceuticals" that it claims on its website create the same effect as a gastric bypass without surgery. Many unsatisfied customers who bought Roca Labs' products vented on a website called Pissed Consumer.

Roca Labs, pursuant to a clause in its contract with customers, turned around and tried to sue Pissed Consumer for interfering with Roca's contractual relations with its customers. Pretty prosaic stuff, right? That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Did PACs Post Codes on Twitter to Violate Campaign Finance Laws?

Following Citizens United, FEC v. SpeechNow, and McCutcheon, what remains of federal election law is that political action committees can't coordinate with candidates and parties if they want their expenditures to remain "independent."

There are, however, no limits to the ways in which PACs will exploit loopholes (and that's a fact!). This week, CNN reported on a creative way to skirt election laws that sounds like a rejected idea from a John le Carre novel.

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

In these blogs over the years, we have covered many of the fantastic advantages of high technology. Unfortunately, though, tech also can be used for unsavory purposes, to put it mildly. Indeed, with tech, mankind has developed new and different ways to kill other people. As an example, fairly recently a Malaysia Airlines jetliner carrying civilians was shot out of the sky, apparently by an advanced missile.

5 Practical Gifts for a Tech-Savvy Lawyer's Office

If Thanksgiving is coming, you'd better believe that "Black Friday" deals are too. Hopefully you won't actually be out shopping on Black Friday -- or on Thanksgiving, for crying out loud. In any case, you don't need to wait until Black Friday before finding deals for the tech-savvy lawyer in your life -- "Black Friday" is basically a month-long thing now.

So what do you get for Attorney 2.0? Gadgets, of course. In the first part of an ongoing series about tech stuff, here are some of our favorite tech gifts for the lawyer's office (all prices are current as of publication):

FTC Concerned About Apple Watch, 3rd Party Access to Health Info

At an unknown time in probably Q1 next year, at an unknown price, the Apple Watch is coming. The Apple Watch promises, among other things, a centralized way to track all your health statistics. That's got some ears perking up, from e-discovery experts to, now, the FTC.

Citing two anonymous sources, Reuters reported yesterday that Apple and the FTC were in talks over the privacy of all that juicy health data the Apple Watch will undoubtedly collect. In closed-door meetings, the FTC has allegedly asked for assurances that third parties or marketers won't be able to access a user's health data.

Officially, Apple has strong privacy protections in place. Its App Store submission guidelines for apps using the HealthKit API don't allow apps to store health information in iCloud or use health information for advertising purposes.

How Big Should Your Monitor Be? What About Resolution?

Yesterday, we blogged about eye strain: Americans are spending an average of more than nine hours per day in front of their computer screens, often leading to eye fatigue and related symptoms, like headaches. And while I was getting ready to mock people with 4k (5k if you bought the new $3,000 iMac) displays, I realized something: My computer monitors might be ready for an upgrade.

At home, I have two 22-inch 1080p monitors. A few years ago, that would have been state-of-the-art, but now? Would I benefit from an upgrade beyond "HD"?

Apple iMessage Bug Spawns Deregistration Tool, Class Action Lawsuit

Apple has long-since had an issue with its messaging service not playing nicely with Androids and other smartphones. I noticed the issue when I ditched my badly aging iPhone 3GS for a Google Nexus 4 a few years ago -- texts would be lost in the vapors, especially group text messages.

It turns out I wasn't alone: iMessage, which routes text messages though Apple's service, was intercepting text messages from fellow Apple users, even after users switched to Android. For a while, the problem went unaddressed. Then Apple was sued by an aggravated Galaxy S5 owner.

Now? Apple released a tool to fix the problem late last week. And U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruled Monday that the lawsuit could move forward.

Obama Supports Net Neutrality, Urges FCC to Reclassify Broadband

In case you missed it, President Barack Obama has issued a statement (and accompanying video!) outlining his hope for an "open Internet" and actually using the words "net neutrality" several times.

The statement is notable in that there's no hedging and no weasel language: It's a hortatory policy statement calling on the FCC not only to implement the "net neutrality" that its advocates -- and not its opponents -- have sought, but to go further and "reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act." (There should be a [sic] after this; he really means the Communications Act of 1934.)

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

Today is Veterans Day. We have much to be thankful for in terms of the valuable service dedicated to our country by our veterans. I want to take the opportunity in this blog to talk about one amazing veteran in particular.

Phil Economon just celebrated his 97th birthday. He still is going strong, working out in the gym, driving his car, and living independently in the house that he has owned for years. Phil is a dear friend and a mentor to me. On numerous occasions Phil has provided indispensable wisdom, counsel and advice to me, and to other people who know and count on Phil. Indeed, when in doubt, we always go by this mantra: "Do what Phil would do."

MS Office Now (Mostly) Free for iPhone; Android, Win 10 to Follow

What happens when you wait years to release an office suite for mobile, then put it behind the Office 365 paywall?

Our best guess: Nobody was using it. That very well might change now that Microsoft has just made Office for iOS (both iPhone and iPad) free to use, with only a handful of advanced features blocked by the paywall.

And, if like me, you aren't carrying an iPhone or iPad, there's still hope: Both Android and touch-friendly Windows tablets will soon have their own versions of Microsoft's industry standard suite.

Colo. Cities Vote to Override State Ban on Municipal Broadband

Thanks to lobbying by totally disinterested third parties like Comcast and Verizon, 20 states have laws on the books prohibiting municipalities from creating municipal broadband or wireless Internet services ("Wi-Fi"). Effectively, under these laws, the cities themselves can't build Internet infrastructure; they have to obtain it through a private company.

But at least seven cities and counties in Colorado, reports Ars Technica, are defying state law and approving the installation of public broadband Internet and wireless.

What's the Latest With BlackBerry? Passport, Classic, OS Update

We don't give BlackBerry nearly as much attention as the other guys, in large part because almost nobody uses a BlackBerry anymore. Nonetheless, the company's CEO John Chen reassured the world that they are "still in the phone business."

OK, but what exactly does that mean? How about a new flagship phone: the Passport, which we've mentioned before. And the modern take on a throw-back design, the Classic, which is set for release next month. And, like everybody else, an update to their operating system.

Yep, they're still around. And if you love your QWERTY keyboard phones, keep reading:

FBI Seeks Expanded Authority for Warrants to Hack Computers

It's no secret that the FBI doesn't much like your encryption. Its director, James Comey, has said as much. It's lobbied Congress to force device manufacturers to put "backdoors" into technology so the FBI can get inside. (Although, if you're Comey, you'd call that a "front door.")

In its unparalleled quest to know what you ate for breakfast without checking your Instagram profile, the FBI wants to be able to hack any computer, anytime, anywhere.

Will This Court Ruling Make You Rethink Fingerprint Unlocking?

I have to admit: The idea of fingerprint unlocking is pretty damn appealing. Passcodes? Too much work. Like, four digits worth of work. And those little swipey gesture things you can do on Android? They work, I suppose, but it's so hard to get those correct without looking when driving.

Plus, you can't crack a fingerprint. You can crack a passcode.

However, a judge in Virginia just complicated the equation a bit with a simple reminder of legal precedent: A fingerprint isn't constitutionally protected, but a passcode is. This means that police need a warrant to search your phone (thanks, SCOTUS) but even if they get one, they may not be able to get past the lock screen.

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

First, we took to the air by hot air balloon. Next, we went even higher via ever-developing aircraft. Astronauts then made their way into outer space and even to the moon.

And now, with the advent of Virgin Galactic, there has been the prospect of non-astronauts going into outer space in a new-age space plane. Indeed, more than 700 celebrity non-astronauts have reserved seats on Virgin Galactic with tickets costing $250,000 a piece.

Unfortunately, as we know, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo recently crashed in the Mojave Desert. It is easy to think that this calamity, along with prior notable aviation accidents, means that it is not safe to fly. Is that true? Read on.

FTC: Online Dating Site to Pay $616K for Fake Profiles

It used to be that, on the Internet, no one knew you were a dog. Now, though, the feds know that you're not a real person. See what a difference surveillance makes?

The Federal Trade Commission proposed fining JDI Dating, operator of several different dating websites, $616,000 for sending fake messages to members, ostensibly from people who wanted to meet them. But really, no one wanted to meet them. (Well, maybe someone did, but not the fake people who messaged them.)