Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

January 2015 Archives

Drone Maker to Prevent Its Drones From Flying in D.C.

After a drunken federal employee flew a drone over the White House lawn, the drone's manufacturer "announced that a new, mandatory firmware update would help users comply with" an FAA regulation that Washington, D.C., is a no-fly zone.

Of course, by "help users comply," the company -- DJI -- means that the new firmware will unilaterally disable drones' ability to fly within the no-fly zone.

FTC's 'Internet of Things' Report States the Obvious

The Internet of Things -- all those gizmos that connect to the Internet, like your refrigerator, your thermostat, and that device that tells you how many eggs you have in the fridge -- is what our future looks like. It's also, as we've chronicled before, a huge security risk.

Thankfully, the FTC is, as ever, on the case! It took only a year and two months after a privacy and security conference held in November 2013 for it to issue a report this week entitled "Internet of Things: Privacy and Security in a Connected World."

Let's go to the highlights.

Keeping Our Tech Love Alive

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

We live in a world in which we are bombarded with information data from many sources, and so much around us on the tech landscape is transparent. How, then, do we keep our tech love alive? Read on.

Does Your Small or Solo Practice Need a Virtual Receptionist?

Solos and small firms likely can't afford much in the way of overhead, whether it's expansive office space or support staff. Fear not! Technology is here to help.

When someone calls the office, who's going to answer the phone? You? Try again: You're at a court date, a deposition, a settlement conference -- in other words, not in the office. Enter the virtual receptionist, which is like a real receptionist, but more ... virtual?

Fitbits, Wearable Tech, and the Impending E-Discovery Deluge

Hey, everyone! Above the Law is sponsoring an e-discovery quiz! You can enter your email address at the end to be entered to win a Fitbit.

Which got us wondering: It's kind of odd (or maybe it's by design) that a Fitbit is the prize for an e-discovery quiz. The e-discovery revolution begun in the late '90s continues unabated, but wearable data-collecting devices like the Fitbit present a new and interesting problem for electronic discovery.

What Is CISPA? Is the Latest Version Any Different?

What is CISPA, and how is the current version of the bill different than in years past?

In President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address, he urged Congress to "finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks." One bill that's been introduced is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would allow technology companies to voluntarily share private subscriber information with law enforcement regarding potential threats to computer networks.

This is actually CISPA's third time being proposed by Congress. The proposed Act dates back to 2011, when it was introduced; the bill passed the House of Representatives in 2012 but not the Senate. CISPA was proposed again in 2013; it again passed the House but then died before it could be voted on in the Senate.

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

Should our digital pasts always follow us around, or should we have the right periodically to wipe out digital slates clean?

The notion of "the right to be forgotten" has garnered quite a bit of attention in Europe, where privacy is more strictly protected than here in the United States. And while there have been some rumblings on our soil, perhaps now is the time for this notion to be taken more seriously in the United States.

Introducing Facebook at Work, So You Can Facebook ... at Work

Color us skeptical whenever a hip new social networking fad comes around. Remember Ello? So do we: At least we remember signing up, writing a story about it, and then never using it ever again. Between all the myriad social networks (and their core audiences), new networks have to more than just provide a place for you to say "hey" to your friends.

For its part, Facebook had to go all meta on us and create a new social network experience within its existing social network. Earlier this week, the company debuted its new product, "Facebook at Work," which could either be great, ominous, or confusing.

Attack of the Unstoppable 'Zombie Cookie'

In October, one of our "13 Legal Tech Stories Scarier Than Dracula or Wolfman" was the news that Verizon and AT&T were injecting a unique identifying number into the Internet traffic of subscribers who used Verizon Wireless cell data to surf the Web. This number could be used to tailor advertising to a particular device.

In a terrifying confluence of puns, that story has risen from the dead in the form of "zombie cookies" that can't be killed.

Silk Road Trial Begins; Ulbricht Denies Being 'Dread Pirate Roberts'

The trial of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of the underground website Silk Road, began in Manhattan on Tuesday.

We can eliminate the "alleged" in front of "founder" because Ulbricht, who had always denied involvement with Silk Road, conceded in court that he did found the website, which trafficked predominantly in illegal drugs. But Ulbricht claimed he abandoned it after a few months.

Where Has All the Privacy Gone?

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

When it comes to privacy, a lyric from a Joni Mitchell song seems apt: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." Indeed, as technology has moved forward, it seems that practically every semblance of privacy has disappeared.

Let's recount just a few of the ways that privacy has gone by the wayside.

'National PACER Day of Protest' Set for May 1

Dear, sweet PACER. Its existence is begrudgingly accepted thanks to the convincing argument, "Hey, there's nothing better out there yet." Its Web 1.0 interface is clunky, but usable. There's something charmingly antiquarian about the interface.

But there's a reason we don't use typewriters anymore. PACER is outdated, but more importantly, its business model is undemocratic. That's why Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org has declared May 1, 2015, to be a "National Day of PACER Protest."

This Is How I Got a Free Vanity Phone Line for My Law Firm

Phone numbers are hard to memorize. True story: At one point, I didn't even know my own cellphone number. Everyone used my Google Voice number, which forwarded to the prepaid cell phone that I carried at school. So when I decided to open my practice, I wanted a phone number that was a little bit easier to memorize.

And my old GV number, part of which spelled out the word "CHUNKY," wasn't going to cut it for a law firm.

I also wanted a landline around the office for support staff and for the once or twice per year that somebody decides that it's time for me to dust off my fax machine. The solution? A $30 adapter and Google Voice.

5 Gizmos From CES 2015 That Lawyers Can Actually Use

Every year, the nerds of the world descend on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, a trade show/press release machine where companies debut new products and tantalize us with proof-of-concept devices that may or may not ever be made, as well as nifty ideas that don't make much sense, like a Wi-Fi-enabled tea kettle.

So what products came out of CES that lawyers will actually care about? Especially the ones that will actually get made and not just chattered about but never released?

FBI Says It Really Doesn't Need Warrants to Use Stingray Device

Boy, the FBI just has an answer for everything, doesn't it? If the FISA court doesn't grant your top-secret warrant for wiretapping (which is unusual because it almost always grants warrants), you just shrug your shoulders and issue a National Security Letter instead.

And if some people insist that your cellphone-deceiving surveillance technology is illegal, you just say you don't need a warrant. Problem solved!

The Latest in 'Technology Will Make Lawyers Obsolete!'

Wow, we weren't even three days into the new year before we got the latest in "The machines are taking our jobs!" And I don't just mean in general, I mean specifically lawyers. Every year, we're reminded that our judgment can be mimicked by a computer.

Emphasis on can be. Well, more like could be. Well, more like "it's theoretically possible, but it's expensive and still not as good as a lawyer."

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

It may be hard to believe, but we already have closed the books on 2014, and we now have started making our legal way into 2015. The year 2015 at first blush sounds futuristic, and in many ways we really are living in the legal tech future we could have barely imagined not that many years ago.

When I started practicing law approximately 30 years ago, advanced technology meant that legal secretaries used mag cards in their electronic typewriters. When we conducted legal research, we actually went into the law library and cracked open real, hard-backed books. Once upon a time, it was a very, very big deal to receive a fax.

Small Firm Startup: Hardware Wish List for 2015

We haven't done one of these in awhile: a big list of every tech-related item that would come in handy if you were to start a law firm in 2015. Today, we cover hardware -- laptops, monitors, printers, and more. Later this week, we'll tackle software and miscellaneous gadgets (including landline or VOIP phones!).

Think of this series as a wish list, for those of you on a budget. Or a checklist, if you're loaded.

Hotel Chains Ask FCC to Let Them Jam Personal Wi-Fi Hotspots

The battle for your wireless dollars is heating up. In October, we reported that Marriott was caught red-handed using a device to prevent users' personal Wi-Fi hot spots from working, in a transparent attempt to force conference attendees into buying Marriott's sensationally overpriced wireless access ($250 to $1,000 per access point).

The FCC fined Marriott $600,000 for that stunt. Now Hilton, Marriott, and the hotel industry trade group are asking the FCC for an exception. Microsoft and Google are vehemently opposed.