The Legal Implications of Individual Genome Sequencing

Many people are ancestry enthusiasts, inquiring into historical databases and family records to find out more about their ancestors and about themselves.  They might learn about hobbies they shared with previous generations, and gain information on traits or diseases that run in their families.  Some people take such research a step further, digging into their DNA to learn about their biological past. Gene sequencing used to be prohibitively expensive for individuals—the first whole genome sequencing Continue Reading →

Client Confidentiality and the NSA: May attorneys still use unencrypted email?

Lawyers handling client data are under an obligation to protect the privacy of that data. State and ABA ethics opinions have approved of correspondence over unencrypted email, deciding that in most cases such communication is consistent with the lawyer’s privacy obligation. However, those opinions were based on an understanding of privacy law that preceded the recent revelations about government storage and tracking of email under the authority of FISA and the PATRIOT Act. It may Continue Reading →

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules that Warrants are Required to Electronically Track Cell Phone Data

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently held that law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant before electronically tracking a suspect’s cell phone. In State v. Earls, the court stressed that users are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy in the level of detail cell phone data can reveal about their lives. This holding applies both to tracking using data from cell towers and tracking using GPS technology from the cell phones themselves. The court Continue Reading →

There’s No App For That: Smartphone Data Privacy and Law Enforcement Searches

Smartphones have become repositories for vast amounts of personal information.  As their functionality grows, users store more and more of their details in their smartphone, from friends’ phone numbers, diary entries, photos, and messages, to shopping lists, bank details, and travel plans.  At the same time, phone manufacturers and app designers silently gather data on users’ movements, browsing habits and passwords.  The resulting bounty of data is extremely convenient for users, but also makes smartphones Continue Reading →

Privacy and the Cloud

With the increased use of cloud storage new questions have arisen related to the privacy and confidentiality of files stored remotely. Although file storage on remote servers is not a new creation, many of the legal doctrines surrounding privacy and confidentiality of files were created without use of the cloud in mind and have not adapted to the expanded use of the cloud. While cloud storage can be an economical and practical method for storing Continue Reading →

Safarigate: Benign Behavior or Malignant Breach?

Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google has purposefully circumvented Safari’s privacy settings, allowing it to track the behavior of users on non-Google sites. These findings contradicted Google’s own instructions as to how users worried about privacy settings could avoid tracking. The report was based off of research at Stanford that had identified four different advertising companies who utilize known exceptions to Safari’s privacy feature that blocks third-party cookies. Naturally, the idea that Continue Reading →

STLR Link Roundup – February 3, 2012

In Washington, the House and the Senate backed competing spectrum incentive auction bills, which would encourage current licensees to sell their under-utilized frequencies at auction to wireless carriers.  Lawmakers in both chambers want to package it with the payroll tax extension, which is expected to pass before the end of February.  Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt called the House legislation “the single worst telecom bill” he’d ever seen and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) called on Continue Reading →

Privacy Rights Re-“Kindled”: eBook Reader Privacy

There has been a tremendous sea change in the publishing landscape over the last several years. As people have been shifting from buying books in brick and mortar stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, to online distribution of physical media like Amazon, to the rise of electronic distribution like Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iBooks ecosystems, the ease and accessibility of obtaining and exploring new works has been steadily increasing. However, what has remained constant Continue Reading →

The Right to Be Forgotten?

Have you ever Googled your own name? Statistics say that you probably have. Egotism aside, in a world where potential employers, schools and even romantic partners are likely to Google you, it would be irresponsible not to be aware of what pops up when you search your name. Many experts (and this non-expert) even recommend setting up a Google alert in your name. But, what can one really do if, for example, your top search Continue Reading →

The Myth of De-Identified Data: Sorrell v. IMS Health and the privacy risks of the prescription data trade

While my colleagues have recently identified many of the potential risks and benefits of electronic medical record keeping, a case before the Supreme Court this term presents questions about the potential dangers it poses for patient privacy in particular. Background: Sorrell v. IMS Health In Sorrell v. IMS Health, plantiffs data-mining firms and PhRMA, an association representing pharmaceutical drug manufacturers, have challenged a Vermont law that prohibits drug manufacturers from using of prescriber records for Continue Reading →