Volkswagon has been in the news lately because of a scandal involving software used to trick emissions tests on diesel vehicles.  The software was rigged to allow their diesel vehicles to pass their emissions test even though the emissions from the vehicles are well above the standard. Immediately following the news, the US has issued a recall for the vehicles, as well as a federal probe to find out what the company knew and when. In the meantime, lawsuits are being filed all around the country.

Robert Clifford, a prominent plantiff lawyer, expects a consolidation of lawsuits in the near future. Clifford has held a number of leadership roles in the American Bar Association and filed a suit against Volkswagen. “No doubt about it, there will be an MDL [multi-district litigation] here,” said Clifford. An overview done by the Wall Street Journal further confirms that laywers are looking to consolidate the lawsuits against Volkswagon.

Amie Parsons, a real estate agent in Dallas, recently filed lawsuit against Volkswagon. Parsons states that Volkswagon’s dishonesty seriously affects her bottom line as a real estate agent. Her attorney, Charles “Trey” Branham, spoke to a newspaper on her behalf. He stated that his client drives people around everyday for her profession, and [the Volkswagon scandal] causes her a big problem. Branham goes on to say “…it is something that affects real people on a daily basis, and it is a problem for them, not to mention the problem of putting 40 times the legal limit of pollution into the air.”



Article via ABAJournal, 29 September 2015

Photo: VW Kombi via Long Road Photography [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

In the past, only five malware-infected applications have made it into the Apple App Store. That number has grown, though, as 25 apps have been identified and pulled from the App Store for containing malware. This cyber breach is due to a program called XcodeGhost, an imitation of the program Xcode, which is the platform develops utilize to make programs for iOS and Mac. While the official Xcode program takes about half an hour to download in the United States, the time is almost triple for developers in China. Most decide to download the program from local servers, which allowed the counterfeit XcodeGhost to be substituted for the real Xcode program and downloaded in in its place. Thankfully, apps developed using this malware have not been observed to steal any sensitive information from users that have downloaded them. Still, though the apps appear to be harmless, the attack on the App Store is notable according to Palo Alto Network’s Director of Threat Intelligence, Ryan Olsen. The firm was the first to report the existence of the malware-tainted apps, and Olsen states that the cyber breach reveals that the Apple App Store isn’t impenetrable.

To prevent another cyber breach, Apple will provide a way for Chinese developers to download an official copy of Xcode domestically, and Apple is “working with the developers to make sure they’re using the proper version of Xcode to rebuild their apps” according to an Apple spokesperson.

Article via CNETSeptember 22, 2015

Photo: Apps via Pixel Fantasy [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

For parts of northwest Mohave County, Arizona, accessibility to court services used to be a problem. Surrounded by the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and the Virgin River Gorge, the closest court building is more than an hour away. This presents a problem for many of the locals. Mohave County has a high poverty rate and many low- and fixed-income residents, many of which have difficulty obtaining transportation. Thankfully, the IT staff of the Mohave County Superior Court under the direction of the court technology systems manager, Kyle Rimel, have been able to find a unique solution. By setting up the North Country Kiosk at a much closer DMV location, residents of Mohave County can now use video chat to obtain multiple court services. The presiding judge of the Mohave County Superior court, Charles W. Gurtler, says that, “The kiosk has been an absolute godsend as far as those people are concerned.” Among its features are the ability to access any courtroom in the county, pay fines, acquire forms, and even make filings or court appearances.

This isn’t the only way that Rimel and his staff are using technology to increase accessibility. Courthouse posters now include scannable bar codes so visitors can learn about jury and divorce information or receive directions. Additionally, an Internet chat line that provides access to court employees has been implemented, and the IT staff has outfitted nineteen courtrooms with audio-video equipment, allowing for different ways of presenting cases. Even though the Mohave Superior Court was woefully under-utilizing technology when Rimel first started working in 2003, he states that now, “our goal is to be one of the most technologically advanced courts in Arizona.”

For others looking to use technology to expand their court’s services, Rimel advises finding sponsors and realizing that courts may have to approach IT solutions differently than other entities. But the results are worth it: Gurtler has high praise for Rimel, calling him the “rock star of the IT world.”

Article via ABA JournalSeptember 16, 2015

Photo: Student pair video chatting with an ELL via Penn State [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

More and more evidence is being brought to light that competent lawyers need to be able to understand technology to truly be considered competent. Take Model Rule 1.1 as set forth by the ABA, for example. Even though states are not required to include Model Rules in their regulations for lawyers, 49 states have adopted Model Rule 1.1, which states that lawyers must be able to provide competent knowledge to their clients. To be able to provide competent knowledge, the lawyers themselves must fully understand the advice they are imparting. Comment 8, an addition to Model Rule 1.1, addresses the fact that lawyers need to continually educate themselves on the technology relevant to their practice if they are to be considered competent enough to advise on it. While not every state has adopted Comment 8, it is being slowly incorporated by a list of states, a list which will likely grow in the future.

Outside of Comment 8, lawyers are starting to have to deal with issues such as cloud computing and metadata, which often require not only tech advice from experts but also knowledge about ethics regulations. Sometimes permission from regulators must be obtained in order to ask experts. To avoid potential problems, lawyers should look into the opinions on the ethics surrounding each type of technology that have been expressed by their state, which can be found on the ABA’s website. Outside the realm of ethics, many states have expressed opinions on what technological knowledge should be required for lawyers. In 2014, for example, the California Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct stated in their Formal Opinion 2015 that although issues like e-discovery are new, the idea of competency is not, and competent lawyers need to be knowledgeable since “in today’s technological world, every case has the potential to involve e-discovery.”

The world is evolving, and law is starting to catch up as formal regulations are set around technological knowledge. To truly stay competent, lawyers need to be familiar with using technology and stay up to date on the latest news surrounding technology with which their clients may be involved.

Article via The Lawyerist, September 10, 2015

Photo: iPublishing, iReading, iEnjoying via Charis Tsevis [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Facebook and the United Nations are working together to provide Internet access to Syrian refugees as they seek resettlement. Web access in refugee camps will help those living there communicate with family and utilize support from aid communities, according to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook is also constructing satellites and aircraft that will beam Internet connections to remote villages and towns, similar to Google’s project that accomplishes the same goal with high-altitude balloons. Critics to the program say that both companies are providing Internet access for selfish purposes, as both Facebook and Google profit from expanding their user base.

Facebook’s non-profit organization Internet.org is also under attack. Internet.org seeks to provide Internet access to developing countries, and was launched in India on Friday. Several Internet companies withdrew from the program because they saw the organization as a threat to Net neutrality, which guarantees that all websites are equally accessible.

Zuckerberg will be holding a town hall-style discussion with India’s prime minister this Sunday in defense of the non-profit. He says that by expanding Internet access, companies like Facebook and Google can create 140 million new jobs.

Article via CNETSeptember 26, 2015

Photo: Relief Effort for Syrian Refugees via IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Google appealed EU’s “right to be forgotten” law that allows citizens to apply for the removal of false or damaging information indexed by search engines. Although the company is willing to comply by the law for European domains, like Google.fr, France’s data regulation authority (CNIL) ordered Google to comply by the law for its international domain, Google.com.

If Google refuses, the company may suffer significant fines or sanctions. Google officials argue that applying the EU’s “right to be forgotten” rule to its international server is both time and resource consuming, and may result in widespread censorship. Google does not have the right to appeal again until it has been fined for violating the CNIL order. After that, however, the company will be given the chance to refute the fines in France’s Supreme Court. The EU’s recent regulatory fine structure could charge Google for up to 5 percent of the company’s international operation cost, which would amount to roughly € 3 billion.

Google’s global privacy officer Peter Fleischer released a statement: “We believe that no country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access.”

Article via Legaltech NewsSeptember 22, 2015

Photo: Review of the Latvian Presidency via European Parliament [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]