Last week, the tech world caught fire with the newest in an increasingly long list of electronic privacy scandals. Carrier IQ, a small Silicon Valley software company with its product installed on millions of cell phones, made headlines when a young programmer posted a video allegedly showing the software’s ability to log keystrokes and collect other, very personal information from phones.
By the end of last week, the controversy had already sparked an angry letter from democratic Senator Al Franken, two class-action lawsuits, and a flurry of denials and explanations from the software company as well as major mobile phone carriers. We briefly mentioned the story in Friday’s Non-Sequiturs, but it deserves a deeper look.
Is Carrier IQ as bad as it sounds? Good question….
Caveat: I did not write the following dialogue. It is from the “comments” section of one of my columns where I mentioned I’d be writing about HIPAA and GLBA. Unfortunately, I cannot attribute the comments to the persons who wrote them, as they are anonymous; however they are quite apropos of today’s subject:
1) “I wish vendors would get it into their heads that indemnity for being sued on a confidentiality basis doesn’t cut it for financial institutions and other customers/clients that have affirmative obligations without being sued in the event of a breach of confidentiality.”
2) “I wish financial institution customers would get it into their heads that the ‘customer information’ they’re obligated to protect is not the sort of thing they would ever disclose to the vast majority of their vendors, and stop using their ‘affirmative obligations’ as a tool to cram unnecessarily restrictive confidentiality terms down the throats of vendors.”
Perfect. Those two comments capture the schism between vendors and customers when dealing with private financial or personal confidential information….
But when it comes to electronically tracking people, Jones is just the tip of the iceberg. Law enforcement also often follow American citizens through their cell phones. The practice has become so widespread that some magistrate judges are reconsidering their willingness to authorize it….
“If you win this case, there is nothing to prevent the police or government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States,” said Justice Breyer.
The Supreme Court justices were decked out in their usual black robes today for U.S. vs Jones [pdf], a case involving the question of whether police need a warrant to attach a GPS tracker to someone’s car. But given their paranoia about possible technology-enabled government intrusions on privacy, it might not have been surprising if they had also been wearing tin foil hats.
On Tuesday of this week, I popped over to San Francisco for the Computer Forensics Show. It’s a small tradeshow targeted at attorneys, accountants, IT professionals, and law enforcement.
I sat in on one legal technology-related panel that was particularly entertaining and informative. Many, if not most, of the people in the room were not attorneys. It was interesting to be a part of a non-attorney crowd and a reminder of how many people really don’t understand basic legal technology principles. What I heard underscored was the importance of maintaining a technology dialogue between legal and other parts of the business.
It was also chance to hear some awesome war stories from a veteran partner at a major law firm. Why did Archie Comics threaten to sue a baby? Why doesn’t Madonna like porn? Why aren’t you allowed to have the domain name fcukpenguins.com?
It’s said that it’s rude to ask a woman her age. In fact, it’s only rude to ask women 30 and over about their digits. It’s far worse, however, to ask a woman with decades under her belt for her age and then to publish it for the world to see. An actress in Texas says it wasn’t just rude but financially costly for her when the movie database IMDB publicized her nearly over-the-hill age in 2008. Cue, Robert Murtaugh.
The Hollywood Reporter has a copy of the actress’s complaint against Amazon.com, which owns the Internet Movie Database, in which she alleges that everyone’s favorite website for figuring out who-that-guy-in-that-one-movie-was-and-what-was-that-other-movie-he-was-in-with-that-girl screwed her over after she signed up for a Pro IMDb account. After entering credit card information and personal details, including her birthdate, to start the account, her age all of a sudden appeared on her public profile page, “revealing to the public that Plaintiff is many years older than she looks,” according to her humble complaint.
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?
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….
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.