Cyberlaw

Earlier this week, the federal government got some heat for allegedly violating the common man’s electronic privacy by snooping around in email and the like. Today we have a lawsuit from Kentucky accusing a tech company, specifically Facebook, of doing nearly the same thing.

What is going on? It’s almost like there’s no privacy anywhere anymore! (I’m kidding, of course: Privacy completely disappeared years ago.)

The suit, filed by an average Facebook user like you or me (well, most of you are lawyers, so not quite like you), claims a class of 150 million people, and damages of hundreds or thousands of dollars per class member. Exactly what heinous offense has Facebook supposedly committed?

I’m so glad you asked….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Did Facebook Illegally Wiretap 150 Million People? Maybe! Probably Not”

We’ve been talking a lot recently about the secretly authorized stuff our government does to us — like killing us, or molesting us at airports.

Here’s another one for the list: digging through our emails or Twitter feeds or cell phone data, without probable cause, our permission, or our knowledge. This isn’t necessarily shocking in and of itself; back in April, Kashmir Hill wrote about how often the government requests information about private individuals from tech companies.

What’s shocking is the ease with which the government gets that information and the secrecy with which it does so. Somehow it’s all based on a law that is older than the Internet. The policy recently came to light when authorities ordered a small Internet provider, as well as Twitter and Google, to turn over information about Jacob Appelbaum, an American who volunteers with WikiLeaks.

How does the U.S. government circumvent basic probable cause and search warrant requirements when it wants electronic information? Let’s see….

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Can't we all just get along?

As everyone knows, IT professionals and lawyers often want to stab each other’s faces with butter knives have a little trouble seeing eye-to-eye. Practitioners of both the law and computer sorcery tend to be headstrong and preternaturally assured that they are correct 100 percent of the time.

It only makes sense then, that several of Wednesday’s panels at the Legal Technology Leadership Summit dealt with the crucial and interdependent relationship between law dogs and mysterious IT folks. Throughout the day, discussion leaders from both sides of the aisle discussed ways to avoid (or at least mitigate) data breaches and to use technological tools to ease billing nightmares. One session was dedicated to lamenting the top ways IT staff and attorneys drive each other nuts.

For reasons why your boss isn’t thrilled about your sweet new 128 gigabyte flash drive and some classic ha-ha-lawyers-don’t-understand-technology anecdotes, keep on reading….

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I rode BART into San Francisco on Monday for dinner. As our train approached the Embarcadero station, the driver came on the intercom.

“We aren’t stopping at this station. Don’t want to drop you in the middle of a protest.”

So my roommate and I got off a block later and backtracked. We encountered a few clumps of would-be protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks and bandanas. They might have been more intimidating, but many had hipster neck-beards curling out from underneath the masks. Mostly, though, there were a lot of riot police. A lot. Who were mainly just standing around.

The protest was in response to Bay Area Rapid Transit’s recent decision to temporarily turn off cell phone reception in four San Francisco stations, which was in anticipation of another protest, which was in turn a response to a recent police shooting in a San Francisco BART station.

Only in California do we have protests about protests. It’s all very dramatic, but where do law and technology fit in? As is the trend these days, pesky hackers broke into the BART Police Officers Association’s website on Wednesday and released personal information about the men and women who patrol the local subway system.

Read more about the allegedly horrible, no good, very bad policy decision that led to the hack after the jump….

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It doesn’t take much to get people riled up about peer-to-peer file sharing and everything that goes along with it. Who is the RIAA is suing or not suing? Which Oscar-winning director thinks illegal downloading is maybe kind of OK after all? The list goes on and on.

Often file-sharing doesn’t much concern us here at Above the Law, but sometimes the P2P attorneys themselves become important and/or easily despicable characters within the always-hot topic. A few months ago, I wrote about an attorney named John Steele. A court found his methods of going after P2P porn downloaders to be unsound.

Last week, two more British attorneys were fined almost £200,000 and suspended from practicing law for their unacceptable Internet pirate-baiting schemes.

Let’s see who these guys are and what they did….

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When I was in college, it was not altogether uncommon for people to leave their laptops unattended with their Facebook accounts still logged in. It was not altogether uncommon for an enterprising prankster to creatively twiddle with said account. A little switch of sexual preference here, a mildly offensive profile picture there, and maybe a nonsensical new profile quote.

It was annoying, and at worst required minor social media damage control, but nobody seemed to care much.

Nowadays, people definitely care. The California Court of Appeals ruled on July 21 that the same sort of online mischief can lead to felony identity theft conviction.

Let’s learn more about Rolando S., a teenager who messed with the wrong Facebook account….

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It’s been an unusually exciting month in the legal tech world. Several lawyers have been charged with (and cleared of) upsetting electronic crimes. An Am Law 100 firm got sued for allegedly screwing up e-discovery. I haven’t even had the time or need to write the same vague jibber-jabber about Google+ that everyone else on the Internet has already written.

This week, we’ve got more high-profile tech arrests, involving the members of an international hacker club who happen to be supporters of everyone’s favorite Australian albino.

For deets on the legal consequences of crashing PayPal’s website, read on….

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We’ve all had obnoxious neighbors. The stoners who play music too loud, the dysfunctional lovers who are always yelling at each other… it’s part of life.

Most of us, though, have not lived next door to our own personal cyber-terrorist. Minnesota attorney Matthew Kostolnik has.

His neighbor “launched a calculated campaign to terrorize his neighbors, doing whatever he could to destroy the careers and professional reputations of Matt and Bethany Kostolnik, to damage the Kostolniks’ marriage, and to generally wreak havoc on their lives.”

On Tuesday, the man who published child pornography and sent a death threat to Joe Biden, all under Kostolnik’s name, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Keep reading to learn more about the worst neighbor since the door-kicking judge….

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This news is more than a little scary.

Google announced yesterday that hackers in China had gotten access to hundreds of Gmail accounts. And it wasn’t just anyone’s email. The attack targeted senior government officials in the United States, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel, and journalists.

I have a feeling we will hear a lot more about this over the next few days. For the moment, let’s take a look at the details we know so far….

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Isn’t it annoying when the YouTube video you’re watching just stops loading right in the middle? Or when your Skype connection suddenly starts sucking in the middle of a video conversation?

Well, it turns out that in Europe, sometimes stuff like that doesn’t happen accidentally. Internet Service Providers intentionally “throttle” certain kinds of web traffic.

The European Union is sick of this. On Tuesday, the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda threatened new legislation and public humiliation for companies that don’t allow consumers easy access to a free and open Internet. That’s right, kids; the net neutrality debate is hot in Europe, too….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Just Like Us, Europe Isn’t Sure How to Handle Net Neutrality”

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