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What's Next: Dystopia at the Border + A New Big Law Scam + A New Twist on Geolocation Technology

Welcome back to What’s Next, where we report on the intersection of law and technology. In today’s newsletter, we have a peak at a dystopian border battle brewing in San Francisco. Plus, online scammers are now posing as Big Law HR in a new bid to part people from their money. And there could be a new way to sway a potential jury pool. All of that and more, below.



Dystopia at the Border

We’ve written before about the limited rights travelers to the U.S. have at the border—especially if they happen to be non-U.S. citizens suspected of leading a dark-web drug marketplace. But the issue is coming to the fore again after an Apple employee, who previously was the chief technology officer of Mozilla, was detained and interrogated at San Francisco International Airport after refusing to unlock his devices. Andreas Gal, who is a U.S. citizen, wrote publicly about his ordeal online earlier this month:

“I wasn’t sure what the legal definition of an unreasonable search and seizure was, but three armed men detaining me, threatening me, and refusing to allow me to consult with an attorney definitely felt like one. ... If the government intended to scare me, they certainly succeeded. Ever since, I travel in fear.”

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union has gotten involved and filed a request for Customs & Border Protection to launch an investigation in what could be a precursor to a formal legal challenge. The San Francisco Chronicle penned an article Tuesday predicting that his case may ultimately lead to a showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court over searches at the border.

Gal’s case presents a few interesting wrinkles. He’s been an outspoken advocate of privacy and encryption, and a critic of the Trump administration—leading Gal to infer he may have been targeted on political grounds. He also refused to unlock his devices in part because they contained information proprietary to Apple. In the end, the customs officers let Gal take his devices with him—which might also make you wonder how seriously they thought he was a danger.

At any airport, customs is already a pretty dehumanizing, dystopian place. Can it really be that citizens have zero legal safeguards against agents making it just a little more hellish because they (or their bosses) don’t like your point of view? For now, the law seems to be pretty firmly on the side of the government … but we shall see. —Ben Hancock


Pop-Up Ad Controversy

Here’s yet another example of how new technology is complicating jury trials: Plaintiffs attorneys said they believed advertisements were being targeted at people’s cell phones near the Oakland, California, courthouse during Monsanto’s third Round-Up weed killer trial.

Those ads allegedly touted Round-Up’s safety and science, and potentially tainted the jury, the plaintiffs attorneys said. They asked the judge to prohibit the pop-up ads within a quarter mile of the courthouse, a request that was rejected.

Bayer AG, which owns Monsanto, denied it was targeting jurors, saying: “Bayer’s communication and marketing activities do not have any impact on the conclusions of four decades of extensive science that support the safety of our products. Bayer’s Roundup advertising is national in scope and the company is not running advertising that singles out the greater S.F./Oakland market or any part of it.” You can read the full article about “geo-fencing” here—MP McQueen


When a Job Isn’t a Job

It’s been a bit since I’ve been on the job hunt—since 2013, to be exact. But even in six years, I would have to imagine the process has changed considerably, as job seekers now have to worry about keeping a perfect LinkedIn profile, navigating the latest job websites and automated matching tools… and, as applicants to one law firm found out, fake job posting cyber scams.

A report last week from the U.K.’s Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed that a scammer had posed as Linklaters’ director of human resources in an attempt to con job seekers out of $1,500. Here’s how the con worked: The fake ad provides the address of the firm’s New York office at 1345 Sixth Ave., and claims to be posted by the firm’s director of human resources. The ad asks the job seeker to transfer $1,500 to “certified local vendors” in order to receive “home equipment” in advance of starting the role. A contact name of “Alan Wozniac” is provided, along with fraudulent email addresses and a phone number—hrlinklatersllp@workmail.comhrlinklatersllp@gmail.com, and (919) 351-9918.

This isn’t the first time a law firm has been implicated in an email phishing scam, and Linklaters itself has been spoofed three times this year alone, according to the SRA. But the job posting twist provides yet another reminder that cyber scammers are always creating new ways to illegally obtain funds and information. And especially with law firms increasingly in the cross-hairs, it’s incumbent not only on IT, but on the firm’s marketing team to stay vigilant and protect the firm’s reputation against unforeseen threats.

As Eli Nussbaum of legal consultancy Keno Kozie Associates wrote for Legaltech News, “It’s vital to continuously adapt security measures as threats evolve. Failing to prevent a breach can be devastating to your firm’s reputation and finances. While the bad guys only have to be successful one time, we have to be successful every time.” —Zach Warren



On the Radar

Alexa Could Snitch: Witness testimony historically has relied on fallible human memory. As more Americans put artificial intelligence into their homes, workplaces and pockets, the devices could unlock a treasure trove of potential evidence. But first, litigators need to understand AI’s limitations. Read the first in a three-part series from Katherine B. Forrest here.

App Up: Crowell & Moring has pushed government contracts into the smartphone era. The law firm’s Government Contracts Group has launched a mobile app for all things contract-related, including news and analysis, finding a lawyer and an interactive guide to help file bid protests on time. The app also houses expert insights in a podcast and video series. Read more from Frank Ready here.

Litigation of the Rich and Famous: While many disputes involving the stars of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” are handled in a slightly less formal manner, a legal battle involving plaintiffs attorney Thomas Girardi, the husband of Real Housewives’ Erika Jayne, is going to arbitration. Litigation Funder Law Finance Group LLC claims Giardi and his firm have yet to repay a $15 million loan. Read more from Ross Todd here.

Planning Obsolescence: Apple Inc. has requested the removal of its lead plaintiffs attorneys in the multidistrict litigation over allegations that the company purposefully slowed performance of certain iPhones. An attorney for the tech giant said Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy principals Joseph Cotchett and Mark Molumphy violated a protective order when they disclosed confidential documents related to the case. Read more from Amanda Bronstad here.

Uber Revs Up for IPO: Uber Technologies Inc. has enlisted Cooley to lead its upcoming initial public offering, following competitor Lyft’s public offering last month. Covington & Burling will also serve as special counsel, and underwriters are represented by Davis Polk & Wardwell. Read more from Xiumei Dong here.