Tech Central: Legal Tech Round-Up
We continue our review of interesting and unique legal tech issues. Here are some recent developments we are watching.
Tech trouble in the workplace
Employers have long struggled with policies for allowing employee Internet use on workplace networks. Historically, the focus has been on preventing time-theft and guarding against liability issues. But a new concern is on the rise: limited bandwidth. Many companies are seeing their monthly bandwidth limits stretched as employees spend time surfing, watching videos and streaming music on their workplace computers. And in many cases, the use of such tools may be integral to the actual work being done. Now, rather than simply providing general policies and guidelines, many employers are finding the need to block specific media sites like Netflix, Pandora and YouTube.
But it's not just employees that are the problem. The rise of cloud computing has increased the need for bandwidth to access legitimate company data that would formerly have been stored onsite.
It's an IT department's nightmare. And it's only expected to get tougher.
Name, rank and... Facebook password?
Employment lawyers and Human Rights Code proponents are sounding alarm bells recently as more and more employers have begun asking applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords during job interviews. Some employers justify the practice as an effective way to check employee backgrounds. Employees call it an invasion of privacy and a violation of human rights legislation. But with the job market remaining stagnant, they feel pressured to reveal the information.
For its part, Facebook itself has spoken out publicly against the practice, even going so far as to threaten legal action against such employers for violating its terms of service with its users. The American Civil Liberties Union also plans to take a firm stand against the practice. It's possible that an interesting test case may be on the horizon.
Mistrial by Google?
In the Summer 2010 issue of Tech Central, we mentioned the growing problem of technology and social media in the courtroom, with jury members causing mistrials by texting, emailing, "Tweeting," and otherwise using the Internet and tech tools to obtain and publish information relating to trials. The problem has not eased since then.
Many U.S. courts have continued to see a growing stream of mistrials due to jurors' use of tech tools: "Googling" parties, witnesses and lawyers during the course of trial; blogging derogatory comments about the accused and their counsel; searching Wikipedia for explanations of legal and evidentiary principles.
In response, judges are becoming more clear and more forceful in their jury instructions. Some are even threatening to impose fines and jail terms on violators. To this point, we are not aware of any cases requiring such extreme measures, but we are keeping our eyes peeled.
Blogging made easier
At Lawyers Alert, we have often encouraged lawyers to enhance their online presences. For many lawyers, that process includes operating legal blogs. But running a blog isn't always an easy task. Beyond the need to maintain fresh and interesting content, many bloggers struggle with moderating the related forums and discussions, where blog readers chime in with their own comments in response to the bloggers' posts. They are part of the appeal of a blog, but can also be the greatest burden for the blogger/moderator.
But a new company in Montreal has developed a tool to make this task easier for the blogger, while also improving the quality of the online discussions. Vanilla Forums provides blog and forum hosting services with a structure that allows blog readers to rate the posts of other discussion participants. The result, according to the company, is a more customized discussion community that rewards positive participation, automatically curates content, and lets members drive moderation, thereby easing those tasks for the blogger or moderator.
Information is current to April 24, 2012. The information contained in this release is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act upon such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.