By now, everyone has heard about the $10 million defamation lawsuit filed against ESPN by a disgruntled NY Yankees “fan” who became the butt of a joke after falling asleep during a Yankees–Red Sox game this past April. The lawsuit was filed July 3rd in a New York state supreme court in Bronx County (yes, that’s where Yankee Stadium is), and has since been widely publicized by all the big networks. What the networks aren’t telling you is that the lawsuit is garbage. Literally, the claims in the complaint are so utterly baseless that the paper it was printed on now has less value than it did before it left the copier. Continue Reading
The proverbial ink wasn’t even dry from yesterday’s recap of Edward Snowden’s chilling account of the extent to which the government can literally take control of any cellular phone, when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) published its landmark opinion in Riley v. California, which requires police to get a warrant before searching a cellular phone. Despite the ubiquitousness of cellular phones for over a decade, not to mention smartphones and the iPhone, during more than half that time, until yesterday, SCOTUS had not pronounced any sort of constitutional threshold governing the search of cellular devices. In 38 short pages, that is all history. But what does this landmark decision really mean to most of Americans? Continue Reading
Although the U.S. government probably wants us to think it’s yesterday’s news, last month NBC News broadcast an exclusive hour-long interview with Brian Williams and the most wanted man in the world—Edward Snowden—in his first ever American television interview. In case you missed it (it ran at 10 p.m. EST on Weds. May 28), the full interview is available at NBCnews.com. Among the highlights, Snowden explains that any advanced government intelligence service can take over your cell phone, regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, a prepaid “disposable” phone, and regardless of whether it’s even turned on!
The NSA, the Russians, the Chinese—any intelligence service in the world that has significant funding, and a real technological research team—can own [any] phone the minute it connects to their network. As soon as you turn it on, it can be theirs. They can turn it into a microphone, they can take pictures from it, they can take the data off of it.
While Congress mulls over proposed federal legislation that would require smartphone manufacturers to incorporate a “kill switch” feature in all new devices sold, Minnesota just beat them to punch, becoming the first state to enact such a law. The so-called kill switch is a feature that would allow devices to be completely disabled—remotely—as a way to discourage and deter thieves from what has become the fastest growing street crime nationwide. Continue Reading
Every spring I head to Chicago for the best annual conference/trade show in the legal industry: ABA Techshow (a/k/a #ABATECHSHOW). The event is a literal who’s who at the intersection of law and technology. It gives geeks like me a chance to rub elbows and compare notes with other tech-savvy lawyers from all over the country (and even the world). One of Techshow’s highlights is the exhibitor hall, where several hundred developers, vendors, and service providers show off their latest wares to those of us who tend to be early adopters.
I made a connection with Ian O’Flaherty, founder & CEO of Lit Software, which is the company behind the wildly popular legal iPad app TrialPad, and the hopefully-soon-to-be-wildly popular TranscriptPad. I’ve always been partial to TranscriptPad because I find that I use it more often than TrialPad, given the lack of cases that actually go to trial. At Techshow 2014, the folks at Lit Software had cameras rolling when they asked several attorneys, including yours truly, about why they like TranscriptPad.
Disclosure: When it first launched, the makers of TranscriptPad provided me with a free copy of the app to write a review. I haven’t received any compensation or other benefit from them (other than the benefit of using the app almost every day in my law practice!).
In its most basic sense, a venue is the place where an event is held. In law, it’s pretty much the same—venue refers to the location of the court where a trial takes place. In many, if not most circumstances, it’s not difficult to determine the proper venue for a trial, especially in criminal cases, where venue is laid, usually, in the county or jurisdiction where the crime was committed. Historically, the only time when venue wasn’t decided that way was if the crime happened simultaneously in more than one jurisdiction—e.g., conspiracies, and other crimes that are carried out in multiple steps. But what about when the accused is charged with committing a crime in a state that’s 1000+ miles away from where he lives, and to which he’s never even been? That’s what happened to Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, an Arkansas native and resident who was charged, tried, and found guilty in a New Jersey federal court, and then sentenced to three-and-a-half years in federal prison. You’re probably thinking that he must’ve done something really bad, right? You be the judge—Auernheimer was convicted of violating a federal statute because, essentially, he forwarded a list of email addresses to a reporter. Continue Reading
It’s a good idea to check your spam/junk email folder periodically. I usually do it once a day. Most of the time the messages in my junk folder are just that—junk. But occasionally, something important winds up in the spam folder. Usually it’s because the sender forgot to include a subject line, or the body of the email has no content except for a hyperlink (you do know that you should NEVER click on such a link, right?). The latter was the case this morning, when I discovered an email from one of my kids’ teachers in my spam folder, only, in this case the email was actually spam. Apparently, the sender’s email account was hijacked, and used to spam everybody in their contacts list. It happens every once in a while that I get spam from someone I actually know, and I find it more and more puzzling each time it does.
Pro tip: choosing “password” as your online password is not a good idea. In fact, unless you’re hoping to be an easy target for hackers, it’s the worst password you can possibly choose.
The reason I find it puzzling is that in spite of all the news of online security breaches, and the heightened awareness and frequent reminders to use strong passwords for your email and online accounts, people are still using passwords that are easily hackable. It’s true, I have no idea what the password was to the email account that spammed me this morning, but based on the fact that it’s an AOL mail account, and stories like this, I have a pretty good hunch that it was fewer than 10 characters, and probably could be found in any dictionary. That’s because research shows that the most popular password last year was ’123456.’ Make no mistake, the purpose of this blog isn’t to provide handy consumer electronics tips, but when I get spam from people who are both highly educated and oftentimes business owners, I feel compelled to write a post like this, in hopes that whoever reads it will appreciate the message because it’s coming from an attorney.
A good password is like Chinese arithmetic: it’s unrecognizable, not found in the dictionary, long, and contains letters, numbers, and symbols.
Although it should go without saying, my firm’s retainer agreements now contain a clause about password strength and security. Because most of my clients are fairly tech savvy, I don’t get many questions about this clause, but when I do, I usually send them a link to this blog post written by Jeff Shiner, CEO of a software company that makes one of the top-ranked password protection applications for more than five years. Even though the article is almost three years old the information is still just as relevant as it was when it was written. At the very least, it serves as a starting point for taking control of your online data. Recently, I read a great guide to secure passwords written by data security guru Bruce Schneier. Even if you think you have a good password already, it’s worth checking out.
In the wake of the recent Target stores and Neiman Marcus data breaches (plus three other well-known retailers, according to this Reuters report) Congress has 20 privacy bills in the works this year, aimed at consumer privacy and data protection. The Personal Data Privacy & Security Act of 2014 (PDF) introduced by New York Senator Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer), along with Senators Pat Leahy (@SenatorLeahy), Al Franken (@alfranken), and Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) expands both civil and criminal penalties for the misuse of personal information mined from retail data breaches. Continue Reading
Most people think about browser history in the context of hiding from your spouse/significant other the fact that you sometimes look at online porn (not that I would know from personal experience), or, perhaps, not letting your kid know that you’ve been reading online reviews about the new bicycle or gadget he’s been hounding you for. Continue Reading
In October, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals became the highest federal court to decide that police must first have a search warrant before they can install a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. That decision came roughly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court decided that installing a GPS tracking device on a vehicle constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment (which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures). When evidence is obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the usual remedy is suppression—i.e. the prosecution can’t use it in court. This is known as the exclusionary rule a/k/a the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. Continue Reading