Another reason not to keep client files on your laptop

The reason?

Border searches:

Miller dismissed Verma’s contention that the computer search at the airport had been non-routine or unduly intrusive.

“The court finds that reviewing the files of a computer does not rise to the level of “invasion of the privacy and dignity of the individual to make the search non-routine,” he wrote in a 14-page ruling. “Even had the search of the computer been as exhaustive as Verma claims, the court is not convinced it would be considered non-routine” and needing reasonable cause or particularized suspicion for it to be conducted, he wrote.

So held the Southern District of Texas, the federal court with jurisdiction over part of the Texas-Mexico border.

If you carry a laptop across the border — whether on a business trip or a personal one — you’d do well to ensure that you do not have sensitive client files.

For seriously sensitive files, the reality is that sophisticated forensics can detect even the magnetic shadows left behind after you delete a file, or fragments of that file that might have been written temporarily to disk by your operating system (or, of course, the magnetic shadows of those temporary files). Those documents demand a more robust solution. But anyone who values their privacy should be aware that U.S. border officials might decide to poke around in the personal files of anyone who wants to reenter the country.

Hat tip: IT Business Edge


Leave a comment

Filed under Encryption, Privacy

Cross-posts: Privacy implications of Google Buzz

I’m cross-posting these links here.  This past week on SCOTXblog, I wrote a series of posts about the privacy implications of using Google Buzz.

The first post was aimed at lawyers, bloggers, journalists, and others who have a special concern about people being able to communicate with them in confidence. Buzz’s pre-populated and pre-published follower lists threatened to expose those confidences.  I have been overwhelmed (as was my server, a time or two) by the response.

As the story developed over the next few days, I posted tips about how to disable Google Buzz (before Google put their own disable button into Gmail) and a personal response to Google’s much-touted apology.

At a gut level, what bothered me about Buzz is captured by this snippet from Kontra (which I saw on Daring Fireball):

Google is a $170 billion company. It employs thousands of engineers and developers. It tests, tests, tests, and tests more. In fact, its “designers” once unable to pick a shade of blue tested 41 variations of it. It’s ludicrous to think that the Buzz fiasco was simply a result of under-testing.

Until Google recognizes — and truly respects — some distinction between our data and theirs, the Buzz fiasco will not be the last.

Why am I cross-posting my own law blog posts here?

I started blogging on a purely legal blog, with a focus on the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTXblog).  That’s deeply related to my work as an appellate lawyer, and the blog has been a success.

I have sometimes posted about internet law, legal technology, or technology in general (filtered through a legal perspective).  I enjoy those topics and want to participate in those conversations, but they rarely have fit the mold of SCOTXblog.

This week, I really wished I had a separate platform not so entangled with my day job (handling Texas appellate cases).  On the other hand, I appreciate that my Buzz-related posts were distributed so quickly because my law blog already has an established and loyal readership.

So it goes.  Cross-posting is my latest experiment in how to talk about technology without disrupting my other blog’s more traditional legal readers.

1 Comment

Filed under Privacy

Cross-post: Social media rules applying to lawyers and judges

I wrote a post over on SCOTXblog titled “Judges friending lawyers on Facebook and social media: Florida’s clumsy overreaction.”

Lawyers are regulated by their local state bars, which impose ethical rules that are often formulated by committees.  That’s one reason the profession is so resistant to changes brought on my technology — the ethical rules are rooted in very traditional notions of how lawyers and clients should interact.

The Florida decision is technologically wrong about how social networks operate.  But, more importantly, it also exhibits a certain tone-deafness about what words like “friend” even mean online.

My recommendation is that legal ethicists steer away from crafting special “internet rules” for lawyers.  Ethics operate at a human level, not a technological one, and there is just too much danger of clumsy “internet rules” hurting both lawyers and clients by keeping lawyers confined to the yellow pages while purveyors of packaged pseudo-legal services dominate online.

Leave a comment

Filed under Law of Lawyering

Google Scholar’s Free Legal Research

Over at my law blog, I posted a quick walkthrough of the new free legal research tool from Google.

There will be more posts to come talking about the great promise here — as well as the surprisingly most limited feature of this new product — search.

Leave a comment

Filed under Legal Technology

Welcome Back

Well, that was embarrassing.  I set up a niche blog and then didn’t post anything for months and months.

During that time, I’ve continued to blog about Texas law and the Texas Supreme Court over at SCOTXblog.  And when I’ve had an itch to write about law & technology, I’ve turned to Twitter.

You can expect to see more long-form posts here, as the mood strikes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellany

Cross-post: Who owns your legal briefs?

Cross-post from SCOTXblog: “Who owns your appellate briefs?”.

There are some deep copyright questions with legal briefs. They are expensive and time-consuming to prepare, and they are (ideally) quite expressive. But, at the same time, they are filed as part of a lawsuit.

The online publishers (West, Lexis) scan copies of these briefs and then charge people for access to these briefs.

Does that cross the line from defensible fair use to copyright infringement? How is that different than Google scanning a book and reselling it, as if the scan is a new work?

Leave a comment

Filed under Copyright, Law of Lawyering, Legal Technology


Law of the Click is my new blog focusing on the law of the internet.  That includes copyright law, trademark issues, and the stray patent claim, as well as the evolving worlds of privacy policies, terms of use, and other contract-based ways that users interact with the net.

On the internet, whole legal relationships change with nothing more than a click.  The click is the smallest indivisible unit of internet life.

The law has been slow to evolve, and companies have tried to fill the gaps (as they perceive them) with layers of contract language.  As users get more savvy — and, indeed, as users start to create as much internet content as they consume — this balance of power is shifting.

Although I am a lawyer, this blog cannot be used to convey “real” legal advice.  If you want the kind of legal advice on which you can feel safe building your business plan or strategizing about a lawsuit then, unfortunately, I have to advise you to formally hire a lawyer.  Hiring a lawyer gets you legal advice tailored to your situation and the specific part of the world in which you live.  And it also gives you the formal protections that come with legal counsel — confidentiality and accountability among them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellany