Category: Tech Law

Social Network Sites after Death

Over a billion people across the world have created a profile on the social networking site Facebook. Millions of people also use other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and a number of other sites.

Logging on to these sites has become a daily habit like taking a shower or eating a meal, but what happens to someone’s accounts after he or she is no longer living? It is a question that many people think about and has even grabbed the attention of lawmakers in New Hampshire and other states.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Peter Sullivan introduced a bill that would give control over a deceased’s social networking pages to the executor of the estate. This includes one’s Facebook, Twitter, and additional accounts like Gmail to be passed to the executor of one’s estate in the event of death.

Sullivan is proposing such a bill in order to provide a sense of peace and closure to family members that lose a loved one. He said the bill would also prevent any form of bullying on a deceased’s Facebook or Twitter page.

Along with New Hampshire, five other states, including Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, Indiana, and Connecticut, have legislation dealing with one’s online and digital presence after death.

Currently, there are online services available such as Entrustet, Legacy Locker, and My Webwill, so individuals can pass on digital assets and account information to trusted sources. People can also speak with a probate lawyer.

The Social Network All Over Again

Pinterest, the social media platform which allows users to create boards on which they can “pin” their favorite online media, has become the subject of a lawsuit leveled against the company and one of its first investors, Brian Cohen. The lawsuit alleges that the concept and technology for Pinterest were not original creations, but rather that Cohen and his business partners stole the idea from another site, RendezVoo, with which Cohen was also connected.

The suit has six total causes of action that it alleges harmed RendezVoo’s founder, Theodore Schroeder, who filed the suit. Overall, Schroeder is seeking an award of more than $75,000 in damages which, in consideration of the considerable success Pinterest has found, seems fairly insignificant in the long run. However, Pinterest’s business attorneys are still planning a defense against the suit, though it’s quite likely that the suit will eventually be settled out of court, much as the strikingly-similar Facebook case eventually was.

eTicketbuster Speeds to Front of Legal Tech Revolution

In the past two decades alone, the legal industry has undergone a quiet technological Yearout & Traylor, P.C.revolution that is dramatically reshaping the way in which people have their legal needs served. A great example of this trend is a new company in Washington state, eTicketbuster. This service allows people who have been issued a traffic citation to fill out a few simple forms online, pay a deposit (which is refunded if their case is lost), and have their ticket contested by experienced criminal attorneys. All this without requiring the individual to lose valuable time fighting on their own in court.

This is the type of technology that is beginning to seriously change how lawyers across the country operate. While some of the more traditional legal industries, such as personal injury lawyers and criminal defense attorneys, will continue to require much of the same industry structure, more specialized practices, such as traffic offenses and wills and trusts attorneys, are slowly being phased out in favor of user-friendly technology.

Farmville Isn’t Hacking

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently released a decision announcing that employees cannot be subject to criminal sanctions under a federal anti-hacking law simply for violating a website’s terms of use or an organization’s computer use policies. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 was ideally passed to help employers and government agencies prosecute those who steal data from their networks, but lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that the Act could also be used to prosecute those who engage in less clearly criminal conduct, such as abusing computer use policies.

In a blow to the government’s case, the Circuit Court ruled that this use of the law was far too broad. Noting that it could encompass employees who engage in activities such as playing the Facebook game Farmville at work or posting incorrect information about themselves on dating websites, the Court determined that too many unsuspecting individuals may be subjected to legal proceedings for their activities.

Do Not Track: Good or Bad News?

With many people worked up about whether or not Do Not Track will affect the freedom of the internet, it may be time for everyone to decide how it will really affect their searches.  The ad industry, understandably, is arguing adamantly against the use of DNT.  They believe that by ridding the internet of personal data collection, the way that tracking-based advertising works will become ineffectual.  This may be somewhat true, but because there are so many other sources of advertising revenue, it is not going to seriously affect online ad sales.

Most browsers have chosen to move in this direction and Google Chrome—the biggest one to hold out—has announced that by the end of the year, they too will have a Do Not Track option for their users.  At this point I think it is better for readers to consider what the impact will be on their personal life rather than getting wrapped up in the potential complications of ad agencies.  At this point, it appears that no one is going to be hit by this act too seriously, but internet users may be able to retain a bit more privacy than they have experienced in previous months.

Wi-Fi Privacy

Recent concerns about the privacy of Wi-Fi networks have many Americans wondering how secure their internet traffic is.  Although Congress amended the wiretap law to protect the privacy of everyone who relied on cellular phones rather than only corded telephones, they have not yet included Wi-Fi traffic.  Password protected networks are likely safe from this potential threat, but open-networks may not be legally protected.

The decisive, long-term ruling on this is currently unclear because this type of technology was not considered in previous amendments to the federal wiretap statute.  A class action lawsuit filed against Google ruled that although the networks were not specifically mentioned in the exclusions of the wiretap law, they should be protected even if they are not encrypted.  This case is currently being appealed, so the final outcome may be changed.  Future weeks will likely present further debate on this type of privacy issue.

Americans With Disabilities Act

A ruling last week in the case National Association of the Deaf (NAD) v. Netflix, Inc. took the unprecedented stance that websites are obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by ruling in favor of the NAD regarding their assertion that Netflix should be required to close-caption its online video library. The key issue in the ruling is the assertion that a website qualifies as a “place of public accommodation” and as such is subject to the ADA just as a brick and mortar shop is required to provide accessibility options such as ramps and handicapped accessible restrooms.

Many lawyers believe that this interpretation of the law could open up a variety of new opportunities for holding companies accountable for discriminatory actions. With this ruling as precedent, plaintiffs could sue websites for failure to make any online property accessible to disabled individuals, requiring significant changes to many websites and other online entities which are currently used by millions of Americans daily but are inaccessible to blind or deaf individuals.

Unfortunately there are many instances where citizens go against the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a person ever experiences this sort of unfair treatment, either in the workplace, or through another service industry, employment and some injury lawyers may be able to take your case.

HIPAA Personal Injury Issues In Southern California

The status of patient information in the healthcare system has evolved rapidly over the last 25 years as new technologies have been created and subsequently applied to the healthcare industry, and a recent brief released by the Consumers Union states that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA) do not do enough to address the issue of security and privacy in patient health data.

With the development of extensive marketing techniques targeting potential customers on the basis of any personal information that the marketing engine can get a hold of, HIPAA and CMIA are no longer sufficient to safegaurd the information which should always remain private outside of the healthcare system in which information exchange is freed up in order to facilitate the treatment process. The vast number of companies who now interact in the healthcare system is a large part of the problem, as HIPAA guidelines focus only on the insurer and the healthcare provider, leaving technology companies which provide many of the new means of data transmission to avoid responsibility for security and privacy breaches which they might otherwise prevent.

Many a personal injury lawyer are concerned that their patient’s information is being put in an unsecure position with the proliferation of tablets, smartphones, and various other devices on the market which can easily be breached and used for unintended or even malicious purposes.

Frivolous Copyright Lawsuits Threaten Free Wi-Fi In St. Louis

The pornography industry has long relied on the defense of free speech and internet freedom advocates when facing persecution and prosecution from decency laws and organizations committed to protecting the public from the perceived threat that porn poses to the public. However, these same groups that came begrudgingly to the defense of the pornography industry are being forced to speak out against it as Liberty Media Holdings (LMH) has recently brought a lawsuit against two roommates for the alleged illegal downloading of a pornographic film to which the company holds the rights.

While pursuing a lawsuit against a defendant accused of illegally downloading copyrighted material is nothing new, this case bears the unfortunate distinction of attempting to extend liability to a party which LMH itself acknowledges did not commit any infringement. According to a prominent personal injury lawyer, the case asserts that because the Internet subscription was in the name of the roommate who did not download the material, and he might have known that his roommate sometimes made illegal downloads, he is somehow responsible for the copyright infringement.

While the execution is new, the strategy of attempting to pressure copyright infringement defendants with bogus claims and improper procedures is nothing new. The objective is typically to intimidate the target into settling out of court despite the presence of a strong defense against shaky claims. The ramifications of this particular case are much greater than others however, as it creates the potential for liability for any entity offering free access to a Wi-Fi connection. In the St. Louis area, cafes, libraries, schools, and entire cities have been making huge strides in creating a readily accessible and free to access Wi-Fi network, a development which has benefited the public mightily while arguably promoting public safety.

Access to free and readily usable wireless internet will likely face a sharp decline should the lawsuit be successful, as businesses may be unable to operate networks out of fear for their company’s good name and financial security.

New Jersey Red Light Ticketing Halted Over Bogus Timing

It seems that what we always suspected was happening turned out to be absolutely true: municipalities in Jersey are gaming red light ticketing devices in order to bilk more money out of taxpayers. After an investigation revealed that a great number of ticketing intersection, 63 out of the 85 examined in fact, failed to meet the legal requirements for timing the signals in order to be used in a red light ticketing format. All of the lights have since been prohibited until such time as they can be individually certified as correctly timed because of issues with distracted driving.

Despite the presence of extensively rules on the application of red light ticketing systems, the vast majority of municipalities blatantly ignored them in favor of calibrations which generate significantly more revenue for the city. This is in part because the legislation which allows the pilot program uses a different formula for determining the proper yellow light duration for a particular intersection than NJDOT uses when installing basic lights elsewhere.

The proper duration of yellow lights at these signals is set to be 10% of the speed limit, which is intended to be the speed at which 85% of the traffic passing through the intersection moves at. According to a New Jersey criminal lawyer the break in the chain occurs when municipalities set these speed limits too low, resulting in light times which motorists are unable to gauge whether they need to stop in order to make the light safely. Studies have shown that yellow lights which are shorter by only a second than the time recommended result in a 110% increase in citations, with the vast majority of these infractions coming within the first .25 seconds following the light turning red.

In other states, increasing the yellow time on intersections using automated ticketing by just one second resulted in an immediate 80 percent reduction in violations, indicating that improper timing is the direct cause of most violations, and not error on the part of those cited.