A number of forensic devices use proprietary software to convict defendants. Breathalyzers, DNA testing, facial recognition, and other tools are not fail-proof mechanisms, but rather coded programs designed to test variables accurately. Unfortunately, these devices don’t always achieve that goal, and rulings in California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida have determined that defendants are not legally granted access to the code that indicts them.

In California, for instance, Defendant Martell Chubbs is sentenced for a cold case murder committed in 1977. The only evidence is a DNA match configured by a proprietary software program. Chubbs requested access to the software’s source code so that he could compare the code to the currently established scientific procedure for DNA matching. He was denied on the grounds that the defense attorney might duplicate the code, resulting in financial losses for the manufacturer.

It’s not unreasonable that a forensic tool would be miscoded, either intentionally or not. The major car company Volkswagon had a recent scandal that highlighted intentional software glitches employed by well-known, regulated manufacturers. The company manipulated its code to cheat emission tests for 11 million diesel cars, each producing smog at 40 times the legal limit. Volkswagon’s actions carry the weight of an important message: any software program used for public purposes may contain mistakes, and those mistakes will never be discovered if the code is proprietary.

The Innocence Project found that debauched forensic science resulted in the wrongful convictions of 47 percent of exonerees. President Obama has stated that if cross-examination isn’t fair and thorough, forensic testimony is “nothing more than trial by ambush.”

Article via Future Tense, 6 October 2015

Photo: 2009 Gabrielli Family Law Moot Court Competition via Wake Forest University school of Law [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Lawyers, like everyone else, have been quick to adapt to use of smartphones for business use. Having a little computer in your  pocket that is attached to the internet makes it easy for lawyers to reach and respond to clients and keep up with industry news. Law firms have become dependent on this technology and as a result smartphones have become a ubiquitous device. Since the time of the reign of blackberry, lawyers have been handed smartphones for company use on a regular basis.

But what is happening to these phones once the firms are done with them? More specifically, what is happening to all the client data that is collected on these phones while they were in use? Large firms usually have an enterprise solution for handling old smartphones. But it is less likely that the same is the case with smaller firms.

A recent study by the Blanco Technology Group revealed that data is sometimes left behind on second hand devices. They found that one-third of discarded smartphones had residual data left on them. Of the mobile devices with residual data, over half was left there after an attempted deletion. This means that even for those who were trying to protect their data by deleting it, they were unsuccessful and did not realize it.

For lawyers, this type of liability can make the stakes much higher. Possibly leaving confidential client information on a device can be extremely detrimental. This means that law firms, large and small, will need to take extra steps to make sure that their mobile devices are wiped clean. This includes not just smartphones, but also tablets and hard drives as well.

Lawyers will need to upgrade their tech savvy to make sure that their data and their clients stay safe.

Article via Above The Law, 8 October 2015

Photo: The iphone 4 via Jorge Quinteros [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in helping the country transition to democracy. The Nobel Committee said the quartet helped establish a political process when the country “was on the brink of civil war.” While countries like Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen went back to authoritarian rule or descended into war, Tunisia managed a successful conversion.

The quartet is made up of mediators from four Tunisian organizations. These are the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. It was created two years ago when the assassination of two important politicians and clashes between Islamists and secular parts of society threatened the country’s security.

Houcine Abassi, head of Tunisia’s General Labor Union, said the award was a “tribute to martyrs of a democratic Tunisia. This effort by our youth has allowed the country to turn the page on dictatorship.”  Abdessattar Ben Moussa of the Human Right League said the award “fills us with joy” at a time when Tunisia “is going through a period marked by political tensions and terrorist threats.” Tunisia’s president Beji Caid Esebbsi said the award recognized the country’s decision to choose the “path of consensus”.

The quartet was established to calm the tension between the Islam and secular side. There was a rise of political Islam in the country that disagreed with the traditional secular politics the country had been accustomed to for decades. Tunisia is still facing border problems, but many are celebrating the win today.

Article via BBC Click October 9, 2015

Photo: Night Tunis via Angelfire & me [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]