Information Technology

This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues.  For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

“Thank you.  We have received your automatic payment.”  “Sign up for automatic bill pay to reduce your student loan interest rate.”  “Ensure your payments are never late!  Sign up to automatically pay your bill.”  “Reminder, monthly payment scheduled.”

Those email subject lines are taken directly from my personal email account.  I receive regular inquiries trying to persuade me to switch to automatic payments for all of my monthly bills.  Clearly from some of the subject lines you can see that I do have some bills (the small ones) set for automatic bill pay and flatly refuse to set up others.  Why?  Well in my law school days it was more to prevent an inadvertent overdraft than anything else.  However, now, it is more to prevent a mess in the event of my death.  Horribly morbid.  I know.  But I have a very good reason.
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This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues. For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

Lawyers often get a bad rap for being resistant to change and behind the times with technology. To combat this issue, states are beginning to require technology training as a part of continuing legal education to maintain a law license.

Many more states have already implemented technology-based requirements directly into their ethical rules. For example, Pennsylvania lawyers are required by the Rules of Professional Conduct to “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

At Russell, Krafft & Gruber, technology is more than just an ethical requirement. We see technology as an essential tool to help us provide our clients with the best legal representation.

Here are just a few ways that our firm uses technology:
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This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues.  For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog article about Facebook’s New Legacy Contact, wherein you can appoint someone to manage your account posthumously. When you fail to appoint someone, Facebook’s current policy allows your next of kin to only have partial access to the account in order to either turn it into an online memorial page or to delete it entirely.

It seems that the highest court in Germany has taken issue with this limited access for a legacy contact, having recently determined that a minor’s parents have the right to inherit their daughter’s Facebook account.  The parents of a 15 year old girl who passed away in 2012 sought access to her Facebook account in order to determine if her death was suicide.  Facebook refused, citing their Legacy Contact policy and concern for the privacy of the girl’s other contacts.  The Federal Court of Justice in Germany held that the account was similar to a person’s letters or private diary, both of which would pass on to a person’s heirs under German law.
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Lancaster County continues to be an attractive marketplace for entrepreneurs in the technology sector. Over the last few weeks, the below articles caught my eye as interesting examples of what Lancaster has to offer to growing companies:

$50,000 Big Idea contest for tech entrepreneurs names 7 finalists

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern

With all the uproar about Facebook’s use of our data and businesses bracing to deal with the EU’s GDPR, it is easy to forget there is no general obligation to protect your personal information. The Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision last week in Enslin v. Coca-Cola, et al. is the latest reminder of that fact.

Shane Enslin is a former employee of Coca-Cola. As part of his employment, he submitted, as we all do, personal information including his social security number. Coca-Cola discovered that one of its IT staffers was stealing company laptops and taking them home for his own use or giving them to others. Among the devices stolen were machines used by human resources employees that contained sensitive personal information, like Enslin’s social security number. After the devices were stolen, Enslin was the victim of identity theft.
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What do robots and lawyers have in common? Although some might suggest there are a lot of less than stellar similarities, none of which apply to the fine attorneys of Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, of course, they are both now able to engage in successful public debate. That’s right, a robot computer took on two humans, including the 2016 Israeli national debate champion, and won!

The program, called Project Debater, was developed by IBM and exists as a freestanding black computer that’s roughly the height and width of a person. Project Debater participated in two debates in front of an audience of mostly journalists. At the conclusion of each debate, the audience was asked whether the debate swayed their opinion on the topic. While the humans won the debate on government subsidies for space exploration, Project Debater successfully changed the mind of nine audience members regarding an increased use of telemedicine, winning that debate. 
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This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues. For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

By now, everyone should be mindful of the dreaded “Reply All” feature (for the uninitiated: When is it appropriate to reply all? Mostly never). I have to agree, although “mostly never” might even be too often.

On a related note, did you ever accidentally hit “Send” before you’re ready? Me too. But I’ve adopted a new trick that might help you as well. When drafting a new email, the last information I add to the email are the recipients. That way, I’m paying particular attention to the autofill feature and making sure I’m ready to send and have the right people.

While sending email to unintended recipients remains a common problem, here are two more nuanced legal issues to consider relating to email:
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With one week left before the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) takes effect, we have been fielding a lot of questions about how, or if, it applies to businesses here in Lancaster. Here are three questions to help you determine if you should worry about the GDPR.

  1. Who does it apply to?

It is easy to think that businesses here in the U.S. need not worry about the EU’s data protection laws unless you have stores or employees in Europe. But the GDPR’s reach is much broader than that. If you have the data of an EU citizen or use a service located in Europe, then the GDPR probably applies to you. Here are a few examples where the GDPR applies:

  • You send email blasts and some recipients are in England (yes, England is still in the EU… for now!).
  • You have a digital list of mailing addresses to send out physical mail and some recipients of that mail are in Italy.
  • You use an online marketing service that processes your clients’ data on servers in Germany.
  1. What data is protected?

Okay, okay. So I have contacts in the EU on my mailing list. But names and addresses aren’t protected, right? Wrong. Unlike many U.S. laws, such as Pennsylvania’s Data Breach Notification Act, the GDPR is very broad in its definition of protected information. For example, under Pennsylvania law you need a name combined with some sensitive piece of data, like a social security number or bank account, before the law applies. But the GDPR applies to any identifying information. This includes names, email addresses, physical addresses, and social media names, plus all the sensitive stuff you would expect like financial and medical information.
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This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues. For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

The hiring process is a key component of operating a successful business and employers do their best to properly vet prospective employees. Many employers conduct searches online through search engines and scour social media profiles as a part of that process, but there are significant legal risks if that process is not conducted with caution. Here is an overview of a few of the potential issues an employer could face with seeking out information online:

Discrimination Claims

Searching social media profiles can reveal all kind of information about an individual, including sensitive information which could identify that person as a member of a protected class. In Pennsylvania, protected classes include race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex (including pregnancy), age, physical or mental disability, use of a guide or support animal, having an association with an individual with a handicap or disability, familial status, education, sexual orientation, veteran/military status and genetic information.

Think about how much of the above information you could learn as a result of a quick review of someone’s Facebook profile. If an employer decides not to hire a prospective employee based on learning some of the above information, the applicant could bring a discrimination claim.

In order to avoid liability for these claims, consider the value of conducting a social media search in the first place. Is there significant job-related information that can be gained from conducting such a search? Employers should carefully document all decisions made in the hiring process and use the same screening process for all applicants.

If you decide that social media searches are useful for identifying job-related characteristics, then consider having one person or a small group conduct the search, and instruct them to filter out all information that is not job-related and pass that on to those with input on the hiring process in order to avoid decision-making based on protected criteria.
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Almost 11 short years ago, the first iPhone made its debut on June 29, 2007.  This inaugural version featured the ability to take photos but not videos, maxed out at a whopping 16 GB hard drive and 128 MB of RAM.  The phone also lacked a GPS, digital compass, and forget about touch ID.  Fast forward to the iPhone X, Apple’s newest iPhone.  The X has 256 GB  of storage, 3 GB of RAM,  and unlocks using facial recognition technology.  And as for those videos the first iPhone couldn’t manage?  The X features 2 cameras that boast more features than most digital camera and offer 4K quality video recording at 60 frames per second.  Today a person can operate their business from the palm of their hand while on the go.  And it is not just our phones that are advancing leaps and bounds.  Cars have self-driving features and refrigerators can plan your meals and text you a shopping list.  The speed of technological advancements is mind blowing and getting ever faster. 
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