Spears Legal Technology


This blog is a resource guide for informational purposes only, and not the delivery of legal, technical or other professional advice. Using the information provided on this blog does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please consult your lawyer.

Goldman says client data leaked, wants Google to delete email

Goldman Sachs has filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court to force Google to delete an email that was accidentally sent by a contractor.

Goldman said the contractor meant to email her report, which contained the client data, to a "gs.com" account, but instead sent it to a similarly named, unrelated "gmail.com" account.

The bank said it has been unable to retrieve the report or get a response from the Gmail account owner. It said a member of Google's "incident response team" reported on June 26 that the email cannot be deleted without a court order.

"Emergency relief is necessary to avoid the risk of inflicting a needless and massive privacy violation upon Goldman Sachs' clients, and to avoid the risk of unnecessary reputational damage to Goldman Sachs," the bank said.

"By contrast, Google faces little more than the minor inconvenience of intercepting a single email - an email that was indisputably sent in error," it added.

My questions are these: If losing the data would truly result in “a massive privacy violation” why wasn’t Goldman’s either encrypting the data itself or using software to encrypt their email (such as the freely available PGP)? And why should Google be legally responsible for cleaning up after companies who do not follow best (or even good) data protection practices?



US Supreme Court Rules Unanimously That Cellphone Searches Require A Warrant

This ruling has distinct implications on the concept of digital privacy if it signals that the Court will apply fundamentally different rules to searches of computers and cellular phones than the traditionally adhered to searches of other forms of personal property.

Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion of the court. Roberts wrote that cellphones are powerful tools that are able to store a "digital record of nearly every aspect" of people's lives. Consequently, they are different from almost anything police find on a person upon arrest. A search of a person's cellphone is far more invasive to one's privacy, Roberts said, than a search of the person's wallet or purse.

"It is no exaggeration to say that many of the more than 90% of American adults who own a cellphone keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives — from the mundane to the intimate," Roberts wrote.

Read the full opinion here.


Court: Ordering defendant to decrypt hard drive did not violate her Fifth Amendment rights

From Evan Brown:

The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. For the most part, this privilege only covers testimony. But an act that implicitly communicates a statement of fact may be within the purview of the privilege as well. For example, producing a document (or electronic data, for that matter) is an acknowledgment that the material:

  • (a) exists
  • (b) is in the possession or control of the producer
  • (c) is authentic (i.e., is what it purports to be)

The court held that defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights were not implicated because providing an unencrypted copy of the hard drive did not serve to accomplish any of the three points listed above.



WiFi Hacker From Hell Sentenced To 18 Years

A Minnesota hacker prosecutors described as a “depraved criminal” was handed an 18-year prison term Tuesday for unleashing a vendetta of cyberterror that turned his neighbors’ lives into a living nightmare.

Barry Ardolf, 46, repeatedly hacked into his next-door neighbors’ Wi-Fi network in 2009, and used it to try and frame them for child pornography, sexual harassment, various kinds of professional misconduct and to  send threatening e-mail to politicians, including Vice President Joe Biden.

His motive was to get back at his new neighbors after they told the police he’d kissed their 4-year-old son on the lips.


TED Talk: Mikko Hypponen - Fighting Viruses, Defending The Net

From TED's website:

"It's been 25 years since the first PC virus (Brain A) hit the net, and what was once an annoyance has become a sophisticated tool for crime and espionage. Computer security expert Mikko Hyppönen tells us how we can stop these new viruses from threatening the internet as we know it."


TED Talk: Meet e-patient Dave

The talks on TED.com endlessly fascinate me. Here is the latest, released in June of 2011. From the summary:

When Dave deBronkart learned he had a rare and terminal cancer, he turned to a group of fellow patients online -- and found a medical treatment that even his own doctors didn't know. It saved his life. Now he calls on all patients to talk with one another, know their own health data, and make health care better one e-Patient at a time.

If the video doesn't play correctly, you can view it directly at TED.com.


Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus

Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus from Patrick Clair on Vimeo.

An infographic dissecting the nature and ramifications of Stuxnet, the first weapon made entirely out of code. This was produced for Australian TV program HungryBeast on Australia's ABC1


A Friday Satire: Google's Opt Out Feature

Courtesy of The Onion.

(Note: this video is safe for work, but other videos/articles on the site may contain adult language and/or themes.)

Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village


TED Talk: Remaking My Voice by Roger Ebert

Sometimes technology lawyers and IT staff become so aware of the risks new technology poses that they forget to enjoy the benefits it provides. But every now and then a reminder filters through.

Roger Ebert is one such reminder. Ebert lost his lost his ability to speak after losing his lower jaw to cancer. Technology has not only made it possible for Ebert to still pursue what he loves - reviewing movies - but also made it possible to communicate with those he loves.



I've been traveling this past week and have just returned home. It's always nice to get away, see new places, or visit with family and friends.

But there's no place like home.


Image by arinas74 at www.sxc.hu.


TED Talk: The Antidote to Apathy

Lately I've gotten the feeling that "breach fatigue" has set in among consumers and businesses alike. How do we combat that kind of apathy in general?

"Professional rabble-rouser" Dave Meslin offers some insights at a recent TED presentation.


Remembering Liu Xiaobo, Tiananmen Square and Online Censorhip


This weekend marks the 22nd anniversary of the Chinese military opening fire on Tiananmen Square protesters. The assault resulted in the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands. Last year I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in China - something I'm sure I will talk about in more depth - and gained a new appreciation of not only how far the country has come over the last 20 years but also how different it still remains from the United States. One major difference involves state-sponsored censorship over computer networks, both inside and outside of China's borders.

So as this weekend approaches I'm reminded of Liu Xiaobo, a prominent advocate of political reform and an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist regime. Liu was among the leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

In late 2009 Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power after publishing six articles that ranged from a discussion of the post-Mao regime’s ability to maintain social stability through subtle dictatorial tactics to the government’s role in child slavery. All of Liu’s articles were posted on Web sites inaccessible in China, yet his sentencing specifically cites the number of online clicks registered for each article. Thus, it appears that Liu Xiaobo was convicted for inciting subversion of state power based partly on the number of clicks his articles generated outside of China. (See page 13 of this document).

The international outcry over Liu Xiaobo’s sentence was loud and far-reaching, and in 2010 Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

He is currently the only Nobel peace laureate still in jail.

For a more current look at the question of online censorship in China and America's role in supplying the technology that makes it possible, read this transcript of the 2010 hearing before the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China: Google and Internet Control in China: A Nexus Between Human Rights and Trade?


Memorial Day

The phrase "Happy Memorial Day" has never quite rung true to me. Pleasure isn't the emotion I feel when remembering those who have served and sacrificed. So instead let me wish that everyone is able to enjoy quality time with family and friends, and maybe take in a baseball game. What's more American than that?

Image credit: linder6580 at www.sxc.hu.


The First Day of Summer

Memorial Day weekend has always been my "official" first day of summer. It is a weekend for barbecues, family, friends, and maybe fishing.

Here's hoping that it is a good one.

Patience from Triverso on Vimeo.



Best wishes to everyone in North Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, and the surrounding areas affected by today's tornado. Some of the scenes I saw on TV and the Internet were heartbreaking. God Bless.

Image Credit:


A Funny Friday: CIA's Facebook Program Saves Millions of Dollars

This video from The Onion is a personal favorite. The best part is the text subheading that says "CIA Calls Facebook 'Reason We Invented the Internet.'"

(As a side note,
debt collectors are also big fans of Facebook.)

CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs

A Peaceful Friday

We've talked about some technical stuff this week. Time for some beauty.

Have a great weekend, folks.

The Hourglass from Ikepod on Vimeo. Music by Philip Glass.


Hello, World!

It is traditional within technology circles to test new programs by having them output the phrase “Hello, World” when they successfully run for the first time. Far be it for me to break with tradition:

Hello, World.

Looking around, I see that I am not alone . . .

Read More . . .