Privacy

Is the internet good or evil? Well, neither — the internet, just like the information you find on it, is really what you make of it. Some people use information for good purposes, and some use it for bad.

Here at Above the Law, we tend to see the internet as a force for good. We use our bandwidth on the web to entertain and to educate. Our view is that, in general, more information is good. With more information, people can make better choices about their lives and careers. Should I go to law school? If so, which law school? And what about law firms? Which firms are the best places to work?

But you can use the internet for anything, really. For some folks, to quote the popular song from the musical Avenue Q, The Internet Is For Porn — and so much more, from the shady to the downright illegal….

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* Were you looking for a treasure trove of high school pictures of SCOTUS justices? Well, you’re in luck! [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* Remember when Gov. Bob McDonnell was a rising GOP star? Well, this recap of his federal indictment makes that seem like a distant memory. [TPM Muckraker]

* Here’s a career alternative for you: Space Tyrant. When GW Law grad Alex Gianturco bailed on his gig at Zuckerman Spaeder, he took the usual route of just playing video games all day. With the twist that he actually made money at it. As the most powerful player in EVE Online, The Mittani, as he’s now known, has managed to enrage pretty much everybody out there playing a game basically designed to reward dickish behavior. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* A pharmacist lands in hot water after trying to connect with a patient. In his defense, being a pharmacist seems like a pretty fool-proof plan to ensure that a potential date has a clean bill of health. [IT-Lex]

* It’s a mixed bag in Ecclestone family litigation news. Tamara Ecclestone lost her dispute with an ex-boyfriend over a Lamborghini Aventador. She’d given the car to her ex-boyfriend and wanted it back, but the High Court deemed the car was a gift. On the other hand, dad Bernie convinced the New York Supreme Court to kick out a £392.5 million lawsuit over an alleged bribe, so on balance it was a decent week for the billionaire family. Now if he could just fix this stupid “double points” thing. [Daily Mail]

* Lawdingo and Themis’s Clio platform have partnered up. Hopefully Lawdingo won’t shy away from light-hearted commercials now that they’ve hit the big time. [Go Clio]

* Kentucky is looking to authorize service monkeys. What can possibly go wrong? [My Fox DC]

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* A Supreme Court whose members are still afraid of using email will most likely have the final say on the NSA case, one of the biggest technology and privacy rulings in ages. Well, that’s comforting. [Talking Points Memo]

* Pittsburgh firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is reportedly in merger talks with Tampa firm Fowler White Boggs. Boy, a merger between two firms from lackluster cities sure sounds promising. [Daily Business Review]

* Law professors are completely outraged by the ABA’s proposal to cut tenure from its law school accreditation requirements. Quick, somebody write a law review article no one will read about it! [National Law Journal]

* Struggling to find a topic for your law school personal statement? You should ask someone who knows next to nothing about you and your life for advice. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Michael E. Schmidt, the lawyer killed in a police firefight, had some interesting things in his apartment, including a “green leafy substance,” a “white powdery substance,” and lots of pills. [Dallas Morning News]

In too many ways, 2013 was a year that vindicated the long-standing paranoia of many Americans, particularly the more conservative. A bewildering number of stories littered the news that seemed to confirm exactly the sort of gross government overreach that previously sounded like a delusion of someone whose eyes were scanning the skies for black helicopters. In spring 2013, for example, we learned that the IRS had been targeting the 501(c)(3) applications of conservative and libertarian organizations, apparently based solely on their political and philosophical affiliations. Nothing in 2013, though, fanned the flames of political paranoia quite like revelations of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.

In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, decided in February, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Amnesty International’s constitutional challenge to a portion of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. In its 5-4 opinion, the Court found that Amnesty lacked Article III standing, in part because the plaintiffs could not show that they had necessarily been targeted for surveillance. When Edward Snowden later disclosed details of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, civil libertarians experienced something of a Pyrrhic victory. Standing would not be a problem in many future lawsuits because the revelation of PRISM established that millions of Americans had been subject to some NSA spying. The only question was whether that surveillance amounted to a violation of the law.

As we leave 2013 and 2014 dawns, some new developments have emerged . . . .

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Edward Snowden

* Now that a federal judge has ruled against the NSA’s domestic spying program, maybe government prosecutors will cut Edward Snowden some slack — or maybe haha, yeah right. [WSJ Law Blog]

* On that note, the ACLU is appealing the other federal ruling that says the agency’s activities are constitutional. The NSA will let you know what the Second Circuit’s decision is this spring. [Guardian]

* Alas, Judge Shira Scheindlin knew from the get-go that her stop-and-frisk ruling would be contested, and she even warned the lawyers involved that they ought to consider a jury. [New York Times]

* “How do you say, ‘I’m married, but not really? I’m divorced, but not really?’” Thanks to Utah’s same-sex marriage ruling, unhappy gay couples who married in other states are rejoicing over the fact that they can finally get divorced. [Deseret News]

* Facebook, a social network that constantly changes its privacy settings to make your life less private, is being sued over its alleged interception and sharing of messages with advertisers. Shocking. [Bloomberg]

* It goes without saying that Sergio Garcia is having a happy new year. The California Supreme Court ruled that the undocumented immigrant will be able to legally practice law in the state. ¡Felicitaciones! [CNN]

* Judge William Pauley ruled that the NSA’s warrantless spying program is legal, noting that — if it had existed — the government could have predicted the 9/11 attacks. Good point, because intelligence agencies were in no position to figure out that there was an attack brewing without a Big Brother initiative. Oh… wait. [Huffington Post]

* On a related note, a cartoon from 1994 that predicted the NSA’s controversial programs. It’s really kind of scary…. [Slate]

* Britain’s clowns are furious that people are dressing up as clowns and trying to scare people. For their sake, let’s make sure they never hear about Pennywise. [Lowering the Bar]

* Professor Dave Hoffman evaluates the case for flat-rate tuition. [Concurring Opinions]

* The Wolf of Wall Street is about a criminal ripping off poor people. Bankers cheered at a recent showing. There is a lesson to be had there about what bankers would do if given an opportunity. [Business Insider]

* “Knockout,” a game where young boys cold-cock unsuspecting victims, is a serious issue. Nah, just kidding, it’s a crypto-racist overreaction. But at least one kid was stupid enough to try it and then tell a cop about it. Seriously. [Gawker]

John Yoo, who famously wrote the legal rationale for allowing the US government to torture people, has already defended the NSA’s activities, arguing that it takes too long for the NSA to obey the Constitution, so it shouldn’t have to. Given that, it was hardly a surprise to see his reaction to the recent ruling saying that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program was likely unconstitutional and should be stopped. Yoo is… not a fan of this ruling. In fact, he uses it to rail against judges daring to make any determination about whether or not something violates the 4th Amendment. According to him (and only him) that’s the job of Congress, not the courts….

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* The DOJ is looking to retry an accused Somali pirate. They’re totally on top of piracy as long as it doesn’t take place here. [The Blog of the Legal Times]

* Yesterday we posted our holiday tipping thread, heavily citing Corporette’s Kat Griffin. Now she’s posted her own guide and we’re linking to it. It’s like Inception up in here. [Corporette]

* Why fashion gets knocked off: delving into the world of design patents and trade dress. [Fashionista]

* Comparing the modern NSA to the intelligence-gathering techniques employed during the American Revolution. Interesting stuff, but a total cover-up job. Where’s the discussion of Ben Franklin’s “electric kite drones,” eh? You must think we’re pretty naïve, Logan Beirne. [Fox News]

* Incredibly sad, but also incredibly fascinating: if a child is rendered brain dead by a possible medical mistake, should the state honor the wishes of the family to keep the kid on life support even though every day on life support makes an investigation into the cause of death harder? [CNN]

* Loyola University Chicago introduces a new curriculum to give students an opportunity to get real-world experience with a judge or practicing lawyer before graduating. A law school focusing on training lawyers to be lawyers? This isn’t all that surprising when you look back at Dean Yellen’s previous work. [Loyola University Chicago]

* Congratulations to Therese Pritchard on her election as the first female chair of Bryan Cave. We’re big fans… until you fail to leak your bonus memo to us first. The ball’s in your court now Pritchard. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The venerable Green Bag is parting ways with GMU Law. Thankfully, it has already found a new home. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Former White House attorney John Michael Farren who we reported on a lot in the past about beating his wife nearly to death… was found liable for beating his wife nearly to death. So that happened. [News Times]

“What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection . . . But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.”

Katz v. United States

“’But who wants to be watched all the time?’

‘I do. I want to be seen. I want proof I existed [ . . . ] Most people do. Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know — they’d trade it all to know they’ve been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know we die. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.”

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

The Circle (affiliate link), the latest novel by Dave Eggers, is a work of speculative fiction centering on a hypothetical technology company called the Circle. Eggers sets the story on a glossy, mythical Silicon-Valley internet campus that unapologetically resembles some famous not-so-mythical ones. At the start of the tale, the Circle has recently overtaken Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Its TruYou technology has created unified accounts for its users’ online presences, linking all social media profiles and bank information, tying it to users’ actual offline identities. TruYou is a convenience, a means of better connecting online, but it also changes the tenor of Internet conversation. Since TruYou eliminates pseudonyms and anonymous activity, it also restores real-life accountability to online comments and interactions. People are nicer. Shopping is easier. Communicating is quicker. People send “zings.” They respond with “smiles” or “frowns.” The reader need not decode much in order to recognize this world….

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Did you catch 60 Minutes last night? Did you at least catch the 60 Minutes promos during various awesome football games this weekend?

On last night’s program, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos declared that Amazon intends to send drones to your house to deliver packages. I’m pretty sure this is the only strategy that would be ultimately effective in Afghanistan. Instead of using drones to bomb people, if we were sending HD televisions, water, and vacuum cleaners, you’d see that region become much more amenable to America. At the very least, sending people things from the ATL holiday gift guide (sponsored) is better than sending them warheads.

But the thought of Amazon drones dropping consumerism on us from the sky should be pretty terrifying to Americans. How would that even work? I live in an apartment building… the humans often don’t know where to leave my packages. Watching Bezos, all I could think of was angry robots shooting copies of the Washington Post at me through my window while I read news on the internet.

Luckily, the Amazon plan is currently illegal. And it’s likely to stay completely unworkable…

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