Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

July 2015 Archives

While the NSA is out training 13 year olds to "hack the planet," all those olds on the bench are still struggling to get by without their gramophones. At least, that's the idea you might get from tech journalists complaining about the tech illiteracy of an ever aging judiciary. They're not alone in their assessment, however.

Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin, from the S.D.N.Y., agrees, telling attendees of Bloomberg BNA's Big Law Business Summit that judges are struggling to remain competent in evolving technologies. Appellate judges? They "know nothing about it," according to Judge Scheindlin.

Move over pink brains, the new legal smarts are contained within circuit boards and transistors, not flesh -- or so techno-futurists claim. Those same voices are now loudly predicting the integration of artificial intelligence into legal practice. Of course, machine intelligence is nothing new. Commentators have long said technology will replace lawyers and lawyers have long laughed at some claims -- and billed for the time spent laughing.

Yet, with AI advancements such as IBM's Watson, more companies are expected to bring AI into their daily practice, and those companies will pressure their law firms to do the same, according to Legaltech News. Proponents are already claiming that at least some BigLaw firms will have invested in "Big AI" within a year.

When it comes to making litigation decisions, lawyers usually depend on their experience, research, and gut instincts, rather than hard data. That's slowly changing, however, as more firms begin to embrace the use of data analytics when deciding how to pursue litigation.

Of course, startups and the media have been calling data analytics the future of the legal profession for years now. While data analytics are becoming more common, they still have a long way to go to meet their full potential.

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

The Ashley Madison site declares on its home page that "Life is short. Have an affair." The home page goes on to state that "Ashley Madison is the world's leading married dating service for discreet encounters." The site also boasts "over 38,050,000 anonymous members!" But how anonymous are those members, really?

People engage in all sorts of communications and transactions on the Internet. Generally, they like to believe that their personal information is handled confidentially. For example, if someone buys an item from Amazon, she hopes that her name, credit card information, and address will not be publicly disseminated.

If you're looking to stand out when marketing your firm online, consider video. More and more potential clients are turning to online video, particularly to YouTube, to learn about legal issues. The market for legal videos is huge: 20 percent of people research legal topics on YouTube.

While the bad lawyer commercial is a longstanding legal tradition, the bad lawyer online video shouldn't be. Here are some tips to help you bring your marketing into the video age like a pro.

Social media, text messaging, and mobile devices are nothing new, but they are increasingly being integrated into business life. Whether it's recruiting an employee through Twitter, closing a deal via text message, or friending your colleagues on Facebook, our mobile lives are becoming more and more integrated into our work lives.

That means mobile technology is also becoming more central to eDiscovery. Texting, mobile apps, and social media are the "new frontier" in eDiscovery, according to a new report by the law firm Gibson Dunn.

This is not your traditional summer camp. There are no ghost stories around the fire, no hiking through the woods, no macrame. Instead, the middle and high school students attending the NSA's summer camp learn how to decrypt passwords, exploit network security flaws, and build robots.

That's right, as of Summer 2015, the NSA has a summer camp -- and it's turning America's youth into an army of hackers. What could go wrong?

Google and Microsoft should be mortal enemies, right? After all, in the world of office productivity, Microsoft's Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the rest) has been the dominant program for a generation, despite challenges from Google. The competition is much more robust when it comes to consumer cloud storage, where Google Drive holds its own against Microsoft and Dropbox.

There's good news for fans of both Drive and Word, however. A new plug-in will soon make these two nemeses more friends than foes, allowing you to save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files straight to Drive. Things just got a lot simpler for lawyers and others who use Office for work, but Drive for cloud storage.

Hackers have stolen the personal information of millions of users of Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people looking to have an affair. The hackers, who call themselves The Impact Team, are demanding that the website shut down -- or else they'll release the stolen customer data, including real names and addresses, revealing the identity of millions of potential adulterers.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Remember back in the early days of the Internet, when websites came in three simple sizes and no one talked back to their elders? Once upon a time all you had to know was .com, .org, and .edu -- maybe a if you were worldly. Those days have long gone.

Today, there's domain suffixes for every whim and fancy, from .ninja to .xxx. Soon, there will be .law. Here's how you can become a dot law'er, along with a quick look at the shadowy Internet bureaucracy that controls dot everything.

The Office of Personel Management announced last week that it had been hacked -- hard. The OPM is essentially the human resources department for the entire federal government, which just happens to be the largest employer in the nation. The personal information of over 22 million people, or almost seven percent of the entire U.S. population, was stolen.

The information stolen included almost 20 million background investigation forms, over 1 million fingerprint records, and thousands of confidential security clearance dossiers. The fallout from the OPM hack promises to last for years, threatening the federal government, individuals, and even national security.

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

Internet service providers (ISPs) like to believe that in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) Congress afforded them broad immunity from any liability potentially caused by third-party content posted on ISP sites. But how secure is that immunity? Let's explore a few important cases to explore the answer to that question.

Zeran v. America Online, 129 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 1997), was an early case to address the scope of immunity provided to ISPs by CDA Section 230. In that case, an anonymous poster urged the public to call Kenneth Zeran to buy goods displaying disgusting expressions of celebration of the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.

Recognizing the connection between national security and cybersecurity, China is proposing strong new cybersecurity laws. China is often accused of waging cyberattacks on other governments, including the recent hacking of the Office of Personnel Management's database which effected the information of 22.1 million Americans. But, the country says it is also a frequent victim of "cyberwarfare," and its new laws seek to beef up the nation's defenses.

As an added bonus, the new laws will also give the Chinese government increased control over its citizens' Internet use.

Are you on the Best Coast with a few days to spare next week? We'd recommend devoting that free time to LegalTech's West Coast conference. The conference, in gloomy San Francisco, will be filled with legal tech companies, practitioners, and scholars.

Those who attend can expect to see everything from presentations on data privacy and security to round tables with top counsel from eHarmony, Google, and TiVo -- it's an eclectic mix. If the New York version is anything to go by, attendees can count on a fair amount of fancy swag as well.

The Cloud is the future, we're told -- over and over. There's a good reason. Cloud computing, which uses remote servers to store, manage and process data, promises to offer affordability, scalability, and reduced costs.

But the cloud is a nebulous place, both legally and technologically. When sensitive data, stored on the cloud, gets hacked, who can be liable for the breach?

Have you seen FindLaw's 99 Things to Do With Your JD, Besides Practice Law? Though it's six years old now, it's still incredibly popular -- thanks, Google! It might be time to tip the list over into the triple digits with the addition of the newest ex-lawyer trend: lawyers leaving practice to become coders.

Can lawyers make the switch from the United States Code to computer code? Probably. Should they give up the law for programming? Well ... it depends.

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

Selfies -- are you a fan or a hater? Either way, selfies may soon not only be personal, but they may also have a business function. Stay with me here.

Yes, there are people who take photos of themselves on their smartphones on practically a constant basis so that we can see them in every life activity imaginable on social media or mobile-friendly blogs. And yes, this can be annoying, even if some of these photos might actually be interesting if we were not otherwise inundated by mundane selfie photos.

It's a bad time to be a pickpocket or mugger. Starting this July, all smartphones sold in California must come with a kill switch -- software that allows the phone's owner to disable the device should it be stolen. This makes the phones more difficult to resell and less of a target for thieves.

The smartphone kill switch may already be working. Smartphone thefts have dropped drastically in the last year, which some advocates attribute to the growing prevalence of the kill switches.

If your firm doesn't have a blog, it's well in the minority. More than 80 percent of AmLaw 200 firms publish blogs. Some of them publish multiple ones. Fox Rothschild, for example, takes the Danielle Steele approach to publishing, putting out blog after blog after blog. The total now? Thirty nine.

For all the BigLaw blogs out there, though, more than a few have failed to adapt to mobile traffic. Not being mobile-friendly is costly, negatively affecting both views and search results. Here's what you can learn from their failures:

Uber has had a rough go of it recently. Two weeks ago, the California Labor Commission ruled that at least one driver was an Uber employee, not the independent contractor Uber had claimed. Last week, taxi drivers in Paris, where Uber is largely illegal, staged violent protests against the company, followed quickly by the arrest of Uber executives. The latest thorn in the ride-hailing app's side? Perhaps the Federal Trade Commission.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a formal legal complaint with the FTC, alleging that Uber's updated business practices and privacy policy violate consumer's privacy. EPIC is asking the FTC to investigate Uber for unfair and deceptive trade practices and to enjoin the implementation of the company's new policy.