Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

December 2015 Archives

It's easy to be a jerk on Twitter. It's so easy, indeed, that the social media network has been flooded with angry young men harassing women and trolls spamming Star Wars spoilers. Twitter has even become one of the main recruiting platforms for both ISIS and Donald Trump.

Now, Twitter has taken a stronger stance against cyber harassment and online bullying, clarifying its policy on abusive and hateful conduct. Once the bullies are taken care of, will terrorist recruiters be next?

New Lie Detection Software Uses Real Court Data

It turns out that the information collected by the Innocence Project is serving another purpose: helping to develop better lie-detection software.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have used clips of witnesses collected by the Innocence Project and other sources to put together a system of "tells" that trains a computer to predict whether or not someone is lying. And you know what? It's about fifty percent more accurate than humans.

Internet of Things and Big Data: More Regulations?

Not too long ago, we wrote a piece describing how the Internet of Things could be used by law enforcement and other entities as a source of evidence. Since billions of devices are constantly tracking an individual's every move, it would be foolish not to consider this wealth of personal data.

Now there is a professional and cultural trend of federal and state regulators pressuring data companies to regulate big data and the IoT. With no particular federal act specifically vesting power in any one agency, it's a bit of a bumpy road.

If you've ever zoomed in or out on a word processing document, it was probably via a simple left-right slider. Drag it to the left, things are smaller; drag it to the right, they're embiggened. It's hardly a revolutionary design, but it is one that Microsoft patented way back in 2006.

Now, MS is hauling out that patent to sue Corel, owners of WordPerfect, the non-Word word processor most lawyers love.

Why U.S. Businesses Are Wary of China's 'Anti-Terrorism' Law

The final draft of what has been billed as China's Anti-Terrorism law will soon become effective starting Jan. 1 of 2016, and it portends some troubling implications for foreign technology companies operating in China.

Specific and pointed language contained within several articles of the law has led some to speculate that motives behind the law have less to do with countering "terrorism" as defined by Western norms, and more to do with countering the West itself.

Lawyers: Don't Forget to Use Evernote to Stay Connected

Lawyers need as much help as they can get in order to stay organized and connected with other people. The amount of technology out there is overwhelming. Lawyers practically need technology to keep up with all the choices.

One pretty popular program application is Evernote. Evernote has been useful to bloggers, researchers, and professionals as a quick and easy repository for online research ideas, URLs, and other information that can easily get lost. But did you know that Evernote can also help you streamline the process of attorney networking? It's true.

3 Most Significant eDiscovery Cases of 2015

It has been claimed that eDiscovery now eclipses traditional discovery to the tune of 95 percent to five. At least one source claims that at least 95 percent of discovery is "borne" from a digital source. There's no denying the obvious: eDiscovery is a major part of legal practice.

Here is a quick review of the more significant eDiscovery cases of 2015.

3 Ways Your Phone Can Kill Your Career

Can you imagine trying to run your life without your mobile device? Can you remember what it was like before you could have internet access on the train without having to be tied to a physical line?

It's undeniable that smartphones and mobile devices have changed our professional lives irrevocably. However, the convenience of being able to handle our personal lives and professional lives all in the same device comes with a possible price: your career.

New Speech Recognition Software Specifically for Law Firms

Do you remember way back in the day when Dragon NaturallySpeaking ver. 1 was pretty much the only game in town when it came to speech recognition software? This was in the early 2000s when speech recognition was still just a fantasy that people could live out vicariously through Star Trek.

Well, times have changed. Speech recognition is so ubiquitous now that it's pretty much standard fare with all the major operating systems on our smartphones. But what about speech software tailored specifically for lawyers? This is the niche that Dragon Legal seeks to attack with its 13th version of NaturallySpeaking, Legal.

It's a bit of a stretch to say that 2015 was the year of the data breach, but data security -- and insecurity -- has been on our minds and our blogs a lot lately. The continued growth of e-commerce, the switch to increasingly digital offices, and the dawn of the Internet of Things have all contributed to the spread of personal, private information. Throw in a few weak security systems and a bit of general incompetence and you've got the perfect recipe for a data breach.

Here are the 2015 data breaches that we think merit the most attention.

If you want to patent non-modified biological material - say, genes as they occur in nature -- you're largely out of luck in the U.S. In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated two patents for breast cancer-related genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, on the basis that naturally occurring DNA segments can't be patented. The USPTO's eligibility guidance has followed suit.

Down Under, however, things may be different. Recent guidance from the Australian Patent Office indicates that it could be possible to patent biological subject matter that is ineligible in the United States.

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

Does it ever seem that everyone around you constantly is engaged in smartphone checking? Do you even find yourself to be one of those incessant phone-checkers?

Well, surprise, surprise: the average American goes for his or her smartphone 46 separate times daily, according to a recent study released by Deloitte.

Washington avoided a seasonal budget showdown on Friday, when Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through next fall. Tucked within the 2200 pages of the omnibus spending bill was an unusual appropriations rider: the entire text of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.

CISA is one of a handful of cybersecurity laws Congress has been considering for the past year. It seeks to bolster cybersecurity by increasing corporate information sharing with the government, but has been condemned as a cyber surveillance measure by privacy advocates. Here's what you need to know.

BlackBerry Priv: The Triumphant Return?

If you're one of the die-hard BlackBerry devotees, you no doubt already have a BlackBerry Priv within arm's reach right now. After all, the phone's been on the market since early November.

With just a few weeks' time since its launch, the Priv has done well. But does that mean that professionals will make the switch back from iOS back to their BB devices?

Landmark Ruling Against Cox ISP for 'Willful' Copyright Infringement

A federal jury recently just handed down a $25 million verdict in favor of BMG, according to ArsTechnica, in what should be the most influential copyright case of this year. The mega-label company BMG holds the rights to works by Bruno Mars, David Bowie, and a handful of other artists. The victim of this sizable verdict? The Internet Service Provider Cox. According to the math, the $25 million sum amounts to somewhere in the neighborhood of $18,000 per song in controversy.

The lawsuit is definitely one for the books because it appears to be the first time in history that an appeals court has found an ISP responsible for the actions of its subscribers.

FireEye's 'Threat Prevention' Products Are Open to Threats

ArsTechnica just released a breakdown of Google's Project Zero Teams' discovery of a major security flaw in FireEye's coding that potentially allows attackers to infiltrate a network and export everything of yours you have on the network -- passwords, download histories, viewing history -- all by just sending that network an innocuous-looking email.

FireEye, to their credit, quickly acknowledged the weakness in their affected products and released a patch designed to address the issue. However, it's episodes like these that make the non-hacking crowd shake in their boots. Just how vulnerable are we?

Corpse-Eating Microbes Might Help Solve Murder Cases

In what has got to be FindLaw’s most morbid addition to the Technologist Blogs, scientists have authored a paper indicating that the consumption habits of microbes can be utilized to predict the time of death of a corpse. Interestingly, the bugs that will eventually eat you are already crawling on your skin, waiting in a specific order to dine on your flesh. And believe it or not, this little feature makes the business of “time-of-death” estimation much more accurate.

This could be the next big thing in murder mystery cases.

Are Users Angry on Your Website? You May Be Able to Find Out

It was only a matter of time before it happened, and the day has come: computer scientists are now programming websites that have the potential to know the user's feelings -- in real-time.

Researchers at Brigham Young University explained that "[u]sing this technology, website will no longer be dumb." Not only will they be able to understand what you're providing, "but what you're feeling."

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

The holidays seem to be coming a bit earlier than expected, as Congress has delivered a gift in the form of no Internet access taxes going-forward.

According to, Senate and House members involved in negotiations announced last week that agreement has been achieved on bipartisan legislation to extend permanently a moratorium that bans states from taxing Internet access.

You can rent everything from a yurt, to a fold-out couch, to a castle on Airbnb, the online marketplace for peer-to-peer short-term rentals. But you might have a harder time renting if a host thinks you're African-American.

A new paper by three Harvard researchers shows that discrimination against black Airbnb renters is widespread on Airbnb -- often in violation of state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

Law Firms Generate Huge Business for IT Companies

Professions that revolve around providing services generally plan to increase their spend on Information Technology in the coming year, according to new research by CompTIA.

Among the industries included in the study are law firms who joined the burgeoning group of professional services sectors that have opted for a more direct management style of the IT in their businesses.

Facebook went before the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday to urge the appellate court to uphold a $3 million award against a now-defunct competitor, Power Ventures. In the late 2000s, Power Ventures operated the website, a social network aggregator that allowed users to access sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, all in one spot. aggressively encouraged users to sign their friends up, using information from Facebook to send out messages to users' Facebook friends. That led Facebook to sue, alleging that Power Ventures illegally accessed information on the social network's site.

Idaho Courts Usher in the 21st Cent., Launch Statewide E-Filing

The Idaho judiciary announced that they have begun implementation of e-filing technology that will allow residents and their lawyers to file court documents electronically at any time, from anywhere. What a relief.

The lucky company that the state has selected is Tyler Technologies, whose technology is already in use in Idaho's judicial system. The technological push is part of a campaign to streamline the otherwise creaky operations of the legal system and to make services faster and cheaper.

What's the Ultimate Password? Your Body?

The legal community is increasing focused on issues relating to cybersecurity and hacking. It seems that every few months -- weeks, even -- some new retailer, financial services company, or bank announces that it got hacked. Shortly after these hacks, we're assured that the hacked business has undertaken a "comprehensive review" of the situation and "implemented significant changes" to prevent further attacks.

Turning to solutions offered by biometrics, companies now see the human body as the next frontier in security. But does this putative panacea deliver on its promises?

Toy Company Hit by Hackers. Was Your Child's Data Stolen?

Data breaches aren't going away. Now even kids' toys aren't safe from hackers. First it happened to Barbie. More recently, on November 30th, VTech Holdings pulled the plug on several of its affiliate websites because hackers invaded customer data at VTech Holdings Limited, makers of electronic learning toys.

The silver lining to this story is that the breach is on a smaller scale and does not contain personally-identifiable information (PII) such as credit cards and addresses. On the other hand, it does contain information on your children's gender and birthdays.

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

While the federal government has wanted access to private electronic information pertaining individuals in its efforts to fight terrorism, the government at the same time has not wished to be transparent to the public about its information gathering techniques. This has been made fairly plain from the fruits of a legal battle that has spanned more than a decade.

We just surveyed the most disruptive legal technologies of 2015 and automation didn't make the list. It didn't even get close. But the idea of automating practices routinely performed by lawyers has been floating around for awhile now. Depending on your perspective, automation is a tantalizing or terrifying prospect.

And it's starting to creep into law firms and legal practice. Will the new year see even more automation take hold in the legal industry?

Forget automation, artificial intelligence, and nano-lawyering. Technology's effect on the legal industry isn't something for the future; it's happening right now. And while tech's impact on the law might not be as "disruptive" as it has been on, say, the cab industry, it is making its mark every day.

Here are the legal technologies that have changed the way lawyers work in 2015.

There's no need to dump those stacks of old paper into the recycling bin anymore. Instead, throw it into the world's first in-office recycling system and, through the magic of modern science, you'll have a fresh, new, crisp stack of white pages waiting for you in a matter of minutes.

That's right, your trash goes in and three minutes later it's reborn like a phoenix. Is Epson's PaperLab the new must-have in office hardware?

If you're shopping for a tech-savvy attorney this holiday season, you'll have to put more than just an iTunes gift card under the tree, or Hanukkah bush, or Festivus pole.

Thankfully, there are plenty of good tech gifts for lawyers this season. Here's our top six picks, all of which are extremely useful and some of which are even pretty affordable.

Is Mark Zuckerberg Reinventing the Silicon Valley CEO?

"Mister Facebook," Mark Zuckerberg, announced yesterday that he and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, were launching the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability corporation through which 99 percent of their shares would be donated for a number of charitable causes, including curing diseases and community building.

Zuckerberg and Chan's astounding move seems to be in line with a number of tech CEOs who have decided to adopt a "kinder and gentler" ultra-wealthy hat. But is there more here than meets the eye?

Over a decade ago, Nick Merrill was approached by an FBI agent with a "national security letter" demanding information about his Internet company's users. Merrill was the owner of a small New York ISP, Calyx Internet Access, and national security letters were the once ubiquitous administrative subpoenas compelling disclosure of user records. NSLs, like the one Merrill received, are issued without judicial oversight and almost always contain gag orders, prohibiting the recipient from even acknowledging that a NSL has been received.

Now, after 11 years with his lips involuntarily sealed, Merrill has finally gotten his NSL gag order lifted. So what was the FBI looking for, anyway?

Just in time for Cyber Monday comes the news that identity theft is on the rise this holiday season. Yep, while you're ordering presents for your family, staff, and colleagues, some hacking Grinch is potentially swiping your information.

But, like all risks, holiday identity theft can be mitigated. Here are some tips to help lawyers and law firms avoid identity theft and other cybersecurity risks this holiday season.