Google / Search Engines

The satirical Onion News Network recently reported on new government funding for that “massive online surveillance program run by the CIA,” known as Facebook — dreamed up by “secret C.I.A. agent Mark Zuckerberg.” The report made light of how much information we’re willing to make available to a third party — information that we would never consider freely handing over to the feds. While funny, the report speaks to serious concerns about privacy. Civil liberties advocates like Christopher Soghoian and Nicholas Merrill worry about the ease with which the government can get access to the digital information we store with third-parties like Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google, as well as to the rich databases that our mobile phone providers have.

Should we call it the Tech.B.I. or the Dot.Com.I.A.?

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David Boreanaz

* What kind of a tour bus does Willie Nelson have? A cannabus. The singer won’t have to make a pit stop to sing in court on his maryjane charges. [New York Daily News]

* How is there a human trafficking problem in Michigan? Are they all Canadians? No one cares if Canadians aren’t getting their fair share of maple syrup. [Chicago Tribune]

* The FTC can be a real Buzz-kill. Google settled its privacy case with the feds over its failed social networking site. [Bloomberg]

* The big O avoids the big ©: my FAAAAAVORITE talk show host doesn’t have to pony up $100M. That makes me want to scream, cry, and then pee my pants. [Crimesider / CBS News]

* Let me save you the trouble: Dockette, your comment about dwarfs was completely inappropriate. I hope that you turn into a dwarf. [Washington Post]

* David Boreanaz settled a wangtastic lawsuit about his peen — and rightfully so, because the show is called Bones, not Boners. [E! Online]

* Howrey gonna make ends meet? By moving to Baker Hostetler. [Am Law Daily]

How can you be a happy lawyer?

* Is concern for “privacy” simply a justification for censorship on the internet? Some thoughts from a lawyer for Google. [Peter Fleischer: Privacy...? via Kashmir Hill / Forbes]

* What’s the secret to lawyer happiness? And no, it doesn’t involve illegal drugs or porn stars (Charlie Sheen isn’t a lawyer). [Slaw via Legal Blog Watch]

* Want to start your own law blog? Read this interesting interview with BL1Y (a regular in the ATL comments section). [Lawyerist]

* Superstar criminal defense lawyer John Dowd, the Akin Gump partner who successfully got Monica Goodling (among many other clients) out of legal trouble, offered a rousing defense of Raj Rajaratnam today. [Dealbreaker]

Jonathan Bristol

* Ex-Winston & Strawn partner Jonathan Bristol, former counsel to money manager / fraudster Kenneth Starr, has reached a plea agreement with S.D.N.Y. prosecutors. [New York Law Journal via Summary Judgments]

* Elsewhere in Ken Starr news, it seems that some celebs are getting hit with IRS tax liens as a result of their ties to him. [TaxProf Blog]

* Congratulations to a 3L at Harvard Law School, Nneka Ukpai, who trounced the prosecution at trial and won an acquittal for her client. [Yolanda Young / On Being a Black Lawyer]

* Congratulations to a 3L at NYU Law and future S.D.N.Y. law clerk, Eli Northrup, who belongs to a hip-hop band called Pants Velour — which has, in the words of our tipster, “captured the magic of Charlie Sheen as only music can.” [YouTube]

* This week, A Round Tuit includes a nice round-up of opinions on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Westboro Baptist Church case (Snyder v. Phelps). [Infamy or Praise]

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

A legal challenge to Google search results garners more sympathy in Europe than it would in the U.S.

A cutting-edge legal complaint in Europe over internet reputation could force Google to rethink how it handles individuals’ control over the search results for their names.

Spanish plastic surgeon Hugo Guidotti Russo wanted Google to liposuction from his results a 1991 news article about a patient angry about an allegedly botched breast surgery. The article from El País, about a breast surgery that led a female patient to accuse Russo of malpractice, has the translated headline, “The risk of wanting to be slim.” Russo was later cleared of wrongdoing in the surgery, but the article, which doesn’t mention his acquittal, shows up on Russo’s first page of results. Google, as is its policy, refused to scrub it.

The case is one of over 80 in Spain in which the country’s privacy regulator, the Agency for Data Protection, has ordered Google to intervene and delete links from search results because they are out of date or contain inaccurate information. The agency summed up the conflict with a public advisory on its website in January: “Google Trial. The right to forget meets the freedom of information.” The “right to be forgotten” is not one found in the American Bill of Rights, but it’s becoming a popular one in Europe in the digital age, even if it does sound like the most depressing right ever.

Read on at Forbes….

* Musical chairs: Donald M. Remy leaves Latham to become the new general counsel for the NCAA. No offense, but I hope he’s terrible at his job. The NCAA needs to be sued by all comers until they stop profiteering off the sweat of poor young athletes so that old, rich university presidents can make even more money. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Anything you Google can and will be used against you. [Forbes]

* Did sanitation workers really make the blizzard worse by protesting proposed wage cuts through a “slowdown”? Somewhere there’s a union official freezing his ass off and smiling. [NY1]

* Some people say law school is a waste of time, some people say getting a Ph.D is a waste of time — is anyone starting to feel like “education” is a waste of time? Snooki is rich, famous, and has a book coming out; Sarah Palin might become president. Maybe stupid and uninformed is a perfectly acceptable way to go through life? [Economist]

* Here’s something interesting. Harvard Law School is doing some research on legal mentoring (or lack thereof). They need people (including non-HLS people, of course) to take their survey. [Harvard Law School]

* I wish Princeton had a law school. I bet it would be loads of fun to cover, since their college alums are already so good at getting embroiled in sex-contest scandals. [Jezebel]

* One soldier responded to the Pentagon’s DADT survey by asking “How far are we going to go with this whole gay thing? Am I supposed to celebrate gayness – do they get to wear a rainbow flag on their uniform?” Just the tip, sure, and only if they earn the badge. [Washington Post]

* Interpol has put Julian Assange on its most-wanted list. The Strokes did it better. [CNN]

* A European antitrust investigation of Google shows that size matters. For Bing, there’s ExtenZe. [Los Angeles Times]

* New York judges may be getting their first raises in 12 years. [New York Times]

* Charlie Rangel’s legal team didn’t cover itself in glory. [Associated Press]

* The FCC will take up net neutrality at a December 21 meeting. Anything that might make ATL load slower must be fought with a demented sort of urgency. Everyone, write your congressmen! [Reuters]

If you’re a gay employee and have a domestic partner who receives health benefits through your employer, you have to pay more in federal income tax — about $1,000 a year, on average. This is because federal law, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages. As a result, the feds treat employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners as a form of taxable income (if the partner is not considered a dependent).

(Note, however, that this could change. A federal judge in Boston recently struck down part of DOMA. Stay tuned to find out what happens on appeal.)

Earlier this month, we wrote about a perk that Google extends to its gay employees who find themselves in this situation. As reported by the New York Times, Google “essentially [covers] those costs, putting same-sex couples on an even footing with heterosexual employees whose spouses and families receive health benefits.” Google makes an extra payment to gay employees to make up for the increased tax burden — a perk that we dubbed “Google’s gay gross-up.”

We asked you, our readers, if any legal employers also offer this benefit. As it turns out, several do.

Find out which employers provide this perk — and vote in a poll on its fairness, which was hotly debated in the comments to our prior post — after the jump.

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It’s good to be gay at Google — or a “Gaygler,” as they call themselves. And not just because the company sometimes has a float in the San Francisco Pride parade.

The New York Times recently reported:

[Last] Thursday, Google [began] covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, largely to compensate them for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.

“It’s a fairly cutting edge thing to do,” said Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery, a law firm in Chicago, and author of “Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide.”

Why do gay and lesbian employees pay more in taxes to begin with?

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Ed. note: Law Shucks focuses on life in, and after, BigLaw, including by tracking layoffs, bonuses, and laterals. Above the Law is pleased to bring you this weekly column, which analyzes news at the world’s top law firms.

One of the many interesting features of BigLaw is the comings and goings of its denizens. Whether it’s looking for the bigger, better deal, jumping off a sinking ship, or departing for the greener pastures of inhouse or government life, every move has a story.

There has been plenty of speculation recently about which firm is wrapped up in an Inspector General investigation of the firm’s practice of hiring former SEC lawyers, who then turn around and advocate for clients at the agency they just left. The Senate Finance Committee is none too happy about the "revolving door," claiming that in at least one instance, the SEC was unduly lenient because of the firm’s close ties with the commission. Usually lateral hires aren’t contentious (examples like Jeremy Pitcock notwithstanding), so this could put a damper on hiring some of the most-coveted free agents.

So which law firm or lawyer(s) might be facing Senate scrutiny?

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