Category Archives: Technology

Facebook Forced To Turn Over Account Info, Photos, and Conversations

The New York Court of Appeals, its highest state court, approved in a 5-1 decision a search warrant that forces Facebook to turn over material on 381 accounts including account information, private photos, and conversations.  This ruling is based significantly on New York law which the court interpreted to mean search warrants issued by judges cannot be appealed to a higher court and the proper venue for challenging search warrants is during a pretrial hearing when a party argues the search warrant is an illegal search.

Read more about this case in this New York Times article here.  The underlying case deals with disability fraud and the Brennan Center provides a concise summary, along with its amicus brief, on its website available here.

One could argue that this opens the door to New York search warrants giving prosecutors access to users’ data on other social networking sites.

The full slip opinion is available here.

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How Do You Organize Your Business Cards?

Over the years, I have amassed a box full of business cards from various professionals.  I do the traditional method which is to write how I met the individual on the back of the business card and a few key facts about them (or name pronunciations).  Then, I put them in this box that sits in my desk drawer.

I am thinking of converting these cards to an electronic format, but I would rather not add them to my mobile phone contacts.  What type of programs do you use to organize your business contacts and business cards?

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Microsoft Sues DOJ

In order to sue the Department of Justice, Microsoft has brought out the big guns by hiring law firms Covington and Burling LLP, where partner James Garland used to work for former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.  Yesterday, Microsoft’s complaint was filed in the Western District Court of Washington State and the complaint is available on the Wall Street Journal website here.  The complaint is also available on Pacer, but the Wall Street Journal has the free version.

In the past, the U.S. government has requested information about certain users from Microsoft, presumably when warranted Microsoft complied with the production of information, and then the U.S. government could temporarily bar Microsoft from telling its users about the request for data.  Under 18 U.S.C. Section 2705, a governmental entity, with a court order, may delay notification to customers for a period not exceeding 90 days if the government has reason to believe that the notification would result in adverse results.  So, a customer would not be notified that a provider, like Microsoft, supplied information to a governmental authority until well after the production of information.  Adverse results include endangering the life or physical safety of an individual, flight from prosecution, destruction of evidence, tampering with evidence, intimidation of a potential witness, or otherwise seriously jeopardizing an investigation or unduly delaying trial.

Microsoft argues that this is unlawful and that tech companies should be allowed to tell their users when their cloud database and private information has been turned over to the government.  The U.S. government may argue that the disclosure to users would compromise an investigation.  However, Microsoft asserts that the U.S. government’s behavior is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  But, is it?

This lawsuit is no easy feat.  It can be difficult to sue the U.S. government due to sovereign immunity issues.  Furthermore, the lawsuit boils down to a fundamental right to privacy argument that seems almost basic and may merit standard Fourth Amendment treatment regardless of all the discussion about cloud computing and the digital age.

Under F.R.C.P. 12, a U.S. governmental agency has 60 days from when they were served to file an answer.  It will be interesting to see who from the DOJ is assigned to the case and what the DOJ’s answer will be.

Furthermore, this case is not likely to settle.  Rather than Microsoft’s typical way of hiring lobbyists to change the law through Congress, it looks like Microsoft is using the courts and this lawsuit to change Fourth Amendment law.  Read more about this new case in this Wall Street Journal article here.

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Facebook Obtains a Patent Related to Credit-Worthiness Calculations Based on Your Social Network

Last week, Facebook obtained a patent that allows for filtering spam emails, improving searches, filtering offensive content, and using a person’s social network to determine their credit worthiness.  CNN Money describes in a recent article how the credit risk analysis works:

“You apply for a loan and your would-be lender somehow examines the credit ratings of your Facebook friends.

“If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected,” the patent states.”

Other publications, like the National Journal in this piece and the Consumerist in this post, are writing about the potential harm from this patent.  The National Journal writes, “lenders would have access to the credit scores of your Facebook friends. Judging by their credit scores, a loan could be rejected. It’s guilt by association.”

Both the National Journal and Consumerist emphasize the negative effects this patent could have on social network users who are on the border of good and bad credit because their credit worthiness could gravitate in a particular direction based on their Facebook friends.  The National Journal pointed out that, “There is a major disparity in access to credit between Latinos and Blacks and their White counterparts,” and this new feature could potentially have a disparate impact based on a user’s race.

However, it should be noted that Facebook has not publicly announced whether they plan on using this credit worthiness feature yet.

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Worcester Community Dialogues on Race

Earlier tonight, I tweeted about the Worcester Community Dialogues Listening Sessions on Race.  You can see my tweets @legalbiscuit.

With the spike of racial tensions across the country, as witnessed by the violent-race-related deaths, the City of Worcester decided to take pre-emptive action and start an ongoing dialogue between community members and leaders.  The hope is that this open dialogue will prevent future race violence in this geographic area.

The seven part series started on Monday, May 18th.  These listening sessions take place every Monday night from 5:30pm to 8:00pm.  They are facilitated by the US Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

I went to my first listening session tonight.  The theme was “Media and Online Social Networks.”

When you arrive at the listening session or community dialogue, you are assigned a number.  Brief introductions are made in the main foyer area.  Then, participants are divided equally among different listening sessions or break out groups.  You converse with your group for about an hour and a half.  The group facilitator leads the group discussion through a series of race-related questions.  The questions vary week to week and focus on the theme for that session.  Then, the notetaker in the session synthesizes and summarizes the discussion into a 2-3 minute presentation.  At the end of the listening session, all participants converge into the main foyer again.  Each break out group has one person present their group’s discussions to the main audience.  Closing remarks are then made.

Also, importantly, they feed you dinner at the event.

The remaining listening sessions, locations, and themes are listed below:

June 29th, 2015       Economic Development (at Worcester Technical High School, 1 Skyline Drive)
                                     
July 13th, 2015        Report back and next steps (at DCU, enter showcase corner at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. and Major Taylor Boulevards)

If you have additional questions about free parking for the event or shuttles, the most recent press release is available here.  Also, the United Way posted a frequently asked questions PDF available here.  Worcester Magazine published an article about the initial event available here.
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Invest in Legal Aid

My five seconds of fame is in this video about legal aid in Massachusetts.

The clip was created by the talented Gary Yordan, who is CEO of the Zachary Group, and Pat Swansey, who is the graceful, eloquent, and miracle-worker Program Director at Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.  It was truly a pleasure working with these two amazing individuals!

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Say Goodbye to Westlaw Classic

This message is for all those legal beagles who still use Westlaw Classic to do their research.  Westlaw Next is here to stay.  Right now, you can still log into your Westlaw Classic account and conduct searches and keycite citations.  But, Westlaw Classic is set to expire on August 31, 2015 and you will only be able to use your Westlaw Next account moving forward.  We will miss you Westlaw Classic.

UPDATE 6/4/2015:  Recent pop-up messages on Westlaw Classic state that the expiration date is September 10, 2015 instead of the 31st.

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Artist Profiting off of other People’s Instagram photos

Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an article about the Richard Prince Exhibit at the Frieze Art Fair in New York City. In his exhibit, Prince enlarged screenshots of Instagram posts by other people.  Then, he sold all the artwork with some individual pieces going for $90,000.

Apparently, the proceeds are not going to the original Instagram poster.  One of the original Instagram posters stated that she did not give express permission to Prince to duplicate her work.  That being said, did the original poster have the right to exclusive use of her photo regardless of whether or not it was posted on social media?  Would the same Instagram photo have been sold for as much as it did if it was sold by the original poster?  Keep these rhetorical questions in mind the next time you post a photo on your social media feed.

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Emojis in Evidence and Testimonies

Because most people are sick and tired of dealing with the abundant amount of snow in Massachusetts, I wanted to post a non-snow related topic today.

Earlier, NPR released a three minute piece about the use of emojis and emoticons in evidence and witness testimonies in court.  Check out the broadcast and transcript here.  Attorneys argue that emoticons are “part of the evidence of a document” as described in this New York Times article about testimony in the Silk Road trial.  Courts in California and New York are recognizing these symbols as part of the conversation culture.  Emoticon meanings in trials is shifting away from the literal meaning of words and towards a more holistic and slang interpretation of a phrase with emojis.

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FTC’s Unanimous Vote Against Snapchat for Privacy Rights

To round out the year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released their final order involving Snapchat. The unanimous vote, 5-0, reprimanded Snapchat for misrepresentation to consumers and orders changes to encompass more of user’s privacy rights. The FTC pointed out that Snapchat failed to fully disclose the amount of data it was collecting from its users. The full press release is available here. The charges against Snapchat are now settled.

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