New legal aid caucus announced

Though it may seem that support for more legal aid would mostly arise from the liberal side of politics, both Republican and Democratic representatives have come together to establish a new legal aid caucus. The caucus, entitled “Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus”, was announced by Representatives Joe Kennedy III from Massachusetts and Susan Brooks from Indiana. Their goal is focused around “expanding access to legal representation for low-income families” including “…veterans, and victims of domestic abuse.” Ensuring that legal services are accessible is extremely important because without it, individuals “can face enormous burdens that devastate families, result in a further descent into poverty, and cause homelessness.”

Additionally, the caucus will focus on making sure there is enough funding for legal aid at the national level. Lack of funding is a serious issue; in 2013, 64% of cases that were eligible for legal aid in Massachusetts were turned away because organizations simply didn’t have enough funding. Representative Kennedy hopes that the caucus will “build a strong coalition in Congress to advocate for civil legal aid programs and ensure access to representation is never limited by income.”

Article via Above the Law, December 8, 2015

Photo: Capitol Hill, Washington DC via Toni Syvänen [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Social media may be used to fight terrorism

In his address this past Sunday on his plan to deal with ISIS, President Obama stated that he will be meeting with social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to talk about their anti-terrorism efforts. Specifically, the Obama administration wants to create a “clearer understanding of when we believe social media is being used actively and operationally to promote terrorism,” according to what one White House official told ReutersWhile social media powerhouses already have policies concerning terrorism and hate speech, allowing government demands to interfere with social media could potentially go against free speech and user privacy.

Social media powerhouses are already combating terrorism. Collectively, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter have taken down more posts this year than in previous years. Therefore, any hesitancy from social media to remove encryption that allows users to retain their privacy online shouldn’t be viewed as supporting extremist ideology. In fact, a former employee of a social media company who chose to remained unnamed told Reuters that social media may be working with Western governments more than you think. Even though some social media companies state that they do expedite the removal of content based on government complaints, the former employee revealed that direct channels for government complaints exist to get rid of certain content quickly.

Finding the balance between using social media as a way to prevent terrorism while still protecting user privacy is simply another part of the ongoing debate of security versus privacy.

Article via CNETDecember 7, 2015; ReutersDecember 6, 2015; ReutersDecember 7, 2015

Photo: Twitter Follower Mosaic via Joe Lazarus [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Net neutrality faces opposition

The concept of an “open internet”, or net neutrality, keeps internet service providers , or ISPs, from being able to alter how users are able to access web content. Specifically, it bans ISPs from being able to create internet “fast-lanes” or slow download speeds for web content that they wish to direct users away from. President Obama stated that he supports an “open internet” last year, three months before the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, was able to have rules enforcing net neutrality approved. Now, though, representatives from the telecommunications industry have come out in opposition of those rules, leading to the FCC to have to defend net neutrality in court this past Friday.

The FCC was originally able to get the “open internet” rules approved earlier this year by classifying ISPs as utility providers. This distinction gives the FCC more power to regulate ISPs. While the FCC believes that net neutrality supports businesses by keeping web services competitive, the telecommunications industry states that the new rules give the FCC too much control over the broadband market, hindering free enterprise instead of helping. Lawyers representing the views of the telecommunications industry argued that instead of being classified as utility providers, ISPs should be classified under information services, like Google. This classification would lessen the FCC’s ability so regulate ISPs and render the net neutrality rules inapplicable. The FCC argues, however, that without rules enforcing an “open internet”, ISPs will have too much power to promote certain web content over others. This could potentially hinder development and investment of new web content.

These arguments were presented to a panel of three judges who will release a decision in the spring which may approve or reject parts of the net neutrality rules.

Article via Buzzfeed, December 4, 2015

Photo: Protest at the White House for Net Neutrality via Joseph Gruber [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Boyden report shows need for technology officers

With companies and law firms around the world encountering problems with how to deal with cybersecurity, it’s no surprise that a report released by the international executive search firm Boyden indicates a growing need for technology officers. Not only that, but a statement released by Tim McNamara, co-founder of Boyden’s Risk Management and Security Sector, reveals that finding technology officers who are knowledgeable about all the intricacies of cybersecurity is difficult. McNamara states, “It’s a very complicated sector with bifurcated responsibilities. Consequently, there are multiple strategies to address cybersecurity needs among the commercial, military and defense, and intelligence segments.”

Basically, each company is going to face different risks when it comes to cybersecurity, and each company needs a unique strategy to prevent cyber attacks. Companies are especially in need of technology officers that can also hold leadership positions. It’s important for executives and other officials to be tech-savvy and understand the importance of cybersecurity, since the effects of a cyber attack are not limited to the IT department. Richard Fudickar, managing partner of Boyden Germany, explains that, “management must understand that this issue is about people and behaviors, not just technology.” This involves trusting chief information security officers and and chief security officers to influence executive decisions and be an active part of senior leadership teams. Ken Rich, a partner at Boyden New York, sums it up, saying, “Companies that have embraced the strategy of giving the CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) a seat at the executive table are better equipped to prepare for any breaches in cybersecurity.”

Finding technology officers with the leadership skills necessary to fill that seat may be hard to find, though. The Boyden report indicates that more than half of companies do not feel that they employ enough security officers. Companies may have to start hiring additional technology officers to fulfill the growing need to understand cybersecurity.

Article via Legaltech News, December 1, 2015

Photo: In the Digital Age via Ohad Ben-Yoseph [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Blackberry takes stand for protecting user privacy

Finding the balance between data surveillance and protecting user privacy is an ongoing process, but Blackberry has just chosen to take a stand for the latter. The company has decided to pull operations from Pakistan after demands from their Telecommunications Authority for unrestricted access to Blackberry Enterprise Services. The Pakistani government was basically asking for a “backdoor” to access encrypted message and emails sent or received within Pakistan. Blackberry not only refused to cooperate with the demands in Pakistan but has also stated that they will not submit to any demands for unrestricted “backdoor” access in any country.

While protecting user privacy is important, ensuring safety of citizens sometimes requires governments to conduct data surveillance. Blackberry has stated that these demands from Pakistani government do not fall under the realm of public safety. Rather, “Pakistan was essentially demanding unfettered access to all of our BES customers’ information,” explained Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard. In the blog post Beard released explaining Blackberry’s withdrawal from Pakistan, he stated that while Blackberry is more than willing to assist with law enforcement’s investigations when a crime has been committed, it won’t grant companies “backdoor” access. This shouldn’t come as a shock; Blackberry has displayed that security is a main priority in their interactions with other governments and businesses.

Blackberry has now shown how they will react to requests for access to their customers’ digital data, but they won’t be the only company having to decide how to protect user privacy. As governments decide how important access to encrypted data is to national security, other companies may be faced with tough decisions concerning their positions in the surveillance versus privacy debate.

 

Article via CNET, November 30, 2015

Photo: Blackberry Bold via johncatral [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Law firm takes new approach to technology training

Being knowledgeable about technology and programs that clients rely on lawyers to use daily is extremely important, but providing the training necessary to gain that knowledge can be somewhat difficult. The goal is to make sure that every lawyer has the adequate knowledge to fully serve their clients, but you don’t want to bore those who already know all the relevant information. Additionally, you want to be able to prove to your clients that their lawyers know what they’re doing. The firm Keesal, Young, and Logan have devised a training program that accomplishes both tasks. After realizing that information technology is important to client satisfaction, the director of information for the firm, Justin Hectus, decided to implement the Legal Technology Assessment.

The Legal Technology Assessment , or LTA for short, is a tech competency test developed by D. Casey Flaherty while working at Kia Motors. By implementing the test, lawyers could test out and bypass certain areas of instruction. Additionally, because the assessment highlighted the areas in which each individual required further education, individuals were able to complete their training in a third of the time. An associate at Keesal, Young, and Logan, Sean Cooney, explains that, “group training is often inefficient because everyone has a different familiarity with whatever program is being used. The individualized training allowed us to skip anything that is redundant.”

The LTA not only identified weak areas for Keesal, Young, and Logan but also measured how effective their tailored program was. After the training program was completed, the average LTA score was improved by almost 40%, which Keesal, Young, and Logan can now use to tout their personnel’s tech competency. Additionally, combining the LTA and specialized training resulted in the trainees implementing what they learned into their work. For example, another associate, Erin Weesner-McKinley, relates that, “some tasks that I previously delegated can now be done with the click of a button, and I have a better understanding of other tasks which I still choose to delegate to nonbillable personnel or colleagues with lower billing rates.”

Article via Legaltech NewsNovember 25, 2015

Photo: Computers via Duane Storey [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]