Law & Technology Blog

Sun, July 6th, 2014 by Graves and Allen

Privacy Is Not Just An Illusion

For some time we have found ourselves in the Internet Age and, as a result have given up much of what we used to call “privacy”.  As a practical matter, privacy as we knew it in the last century has ceased to exist. The Internet has proven a mixed blessing for us.  Along with all the advantages and benefits that the Internet brought us, it also brought a far more public presence for all of us.  As perceptions of expected privacy levels decreased, so did the protections of the 4th Amendment regarding “unreasonable” searches.

Recently, however, the United States Supreme Court struck a blow for traditional privacy rights in the face of modern technology.  By so doing, the Supremes potentially restored a bit of the privacy that we have lost due to technology. On June 25, 2014 in Riley v. California, Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous court explained that the protections of the 4th Amendment extended to cellular telephones.  The court held that as a general rule, the police may not search the content of a cell phone seized during an arrest without first obtaining a search warrant.  

As obtaining a warrant requires the police to go to a judge and convince the judge that they have good cause to obtain the warrant, the process offers the potential of providing some protection to the information we carry on our cell phones.  While the ultimate question will move to the discretion of jurists approached for warrants, the process does, at least, provide the opportunity for protection and preservation of the privacy of our information.

In writing for the court, Justice Roberts noted that most of us carry a considerable amount of personal and professional information on our cell phones.  Given the correctness of that observation,  any protection is better than none.

Presumably, the Riley decision will ultimately result in similar protection for all portable digital devices seized by the police incident to an arrest.  It would be difficult to differentiate between information stored on an iPad or similar device from that stored on a cellular phone.

Kudos to the Supremes for stepping up the Constitution’s recognition that some privacy rights should continue to exist in the Internet Age.

 

Thu, June 12th, 2014 by Graves and Allen

Not So Smart File Examiner

Some time ago I downloaded an Mac App from the App Store called “Smart File Examiner”.  It billed itself as a program to help you check out files. I thought it was a good idea at first, but after installing it, I had some second thoughts.  For reasons not yet determined, when I tried to open a file (not within the program), with some files, the program intercepted the opening of the file, prohibited it and send mer a message saying that it could not figure out that type of file.

That the program could not figure out some files did not trouble me.  What concerned me was that it appeared to be insinuating itself into all files I tried to open and not letting me open some files that I chose to open.  I found that somewhat curious as it was not listed in the files that open automatically on launch and I had not opened it.  When I tried to turn it off, I discovered that the computer did not seem to know it was open (it did not appear in the Dock or in the list of open files brought up by “Force Quit”.  My next idea was to throw the program out, but as it was open, the OS would not let me dispose of it.

Ultimately, I figured out that the way to dispose of it would be to reboot into “Safe” mode (hold the shift key down while you boot up).  That prevented the program from opening and allowed me to trash it.  So far, so good.  To my surprise, however, I was not done with the problems caused by the program.  When I rebooted the computer, the finder would repeatedly flash on and off, making it impossible to work.  I solved that problem by reinstalling OS X on the computer.  Just to make sure that it was not a computer specific problem, I booted another Mac up in Safe mode and tossed out the Smart File Examiner.  When I rebooted the second Mac, lo and behold, the finder would flash on and off, making it impossible to do any work.  After reinstalling the system on the second Mac, I decided to do a little research and found that I was not the only person having issues with this particular App.  Although I did not find anything about the Finder issue I experienced, I found  a number of people who had experienced the initial issues I had with Smart File Examiner.  Maybe they never got to the Finder problem because most of the posts I read were from people looking for ways to delete the program.

Fri, May 16th, 2014 by Graves and Allen

Transporter

No, this is not about a new sic-fi movie.  It is sci-fact (tech-fact).  I have played with several devices to have my own cloud storage system over the last few years.  I recently moved to another level with the Transporter Sync.  I bought two of these devices for $99 each.  I plugged them into the wall, plugged in an ethernet cable from my router at my home and my office and added two 4TB Seagate USB 3.0 Drives (Costco for $149 each) and for $500 I have my own cloud storage system with physical and geographic redundancy.  I did it on an experimental basis to see how it worked.  I like it enough that I will probably add a third device and put it in another state to give me a third backup server and better geographic redundancy.

I like the Transporter for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, I like it because it works.  I also like it because it works well and because it is truly plug and play.  Set up could not be much easier.  I told you about the connection process.  The only other thing left to do to set it up is download the software and install it on your computer, then open it up and set up an account and claim your server to connect it to your account.  The software and the devices work hand in hand so that whatever you put on the hard drive connected to one Transporter gets transported to the hard drive connected to the other Transporter(s) in your system.

You can set up different types of folders for different purposes.  For example, one type of folder will store information only on the hard drives connected to the Transporters in your system.  Another type of folder will move it to the other hard drives connected to the Transporters in your system, but also to the Transporter folders on other devices linked to your account.  You can also set up some folders to share with others, if you wish.  All in all, it has proven a reliable and flexible system.