Slippery Slope for Online Service Providers with New California Appellate Court Ruling

ispsBy Tyler Quillin

The most important law governing the internet just had its 20th birthday earlier this year, the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the CDA grants online service providers immunity from liability for most illegal activities of their users. What’s more, the CDA not only allows large internet-based companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Yelp! to survive because they don’t have to individually each user’s activity, it also enables a large portion of the freedom of speech the general public enjoys online daily.

Yet, despite 20 years of precedent, the CDA has come under scrutiny. Most notably, a California appellate court issued a ruling that included an order for Yelp!, a nonparty to the case, to take down a defamatory post involving an attorney who sued a former client for posting defamatory comments and reviews on Yelp!. Along with the court order to take down the reviews, the attorney won on a default judgment to the tune of over $500,000.

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Digital Whispers: Encrypted Communications and Law Enforcement

By Sam Hamptonlock

Much of the media attention addressing encryption for smartphones has been primarily centered on Apple and Google. Both Android and iOS operating systems offer whole device encryption, where a user’s phone data cannot be accessed without a code. Apple was the target of a lawsuit brought by the FBI who was requesting Apple unlock the cellphone of San Bernadino shooter, Syed Farook (see previous WJLTA Blog posts here and here). This case typifies an ongoing public debate about the balance the law should strike between privacy and security. But whole device encryption is just the tip of the iceberg.

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The Apple v. FBI Saga Continues: The House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing

Iphone

By Jason Liu

Despite the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropping its case against Apple, (as covered in this earlier post), the same legal arguments were salient before the House Energy and Commerce Committee (Committee).  On April 19th, the Committee heard testimony from the FBI, law enforcement heads, Apple and other technology experts about the use of encryption in technology and law enforcement action.

During the hearing, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.) asked the central question, “Should the government have the ability to lawfully access encrypted technology and communications?” Law enforcement officials insisted on “backdoor” access, while Apple countered that encryption protects people from cybercrime. Overall, the hearing continued to repeat prior arguments from the FBI that access was necessary to prevent criminal activity and Apple that encryption protects free speech and privacy made during the San Bernardino shooter case.

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Apple Gets New Encryption Patent as Apple v. FBI Feud Seemingly Comes to an End

appleBy Denise Kim

After the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced on March 28 that it had successfully accessed the iPhone used by one of the gunmen in the San Bernardino terrorist shooting without Apple’s help, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now officially dropping its case against Apple. Earlier, the DOJ’s motion for continuance halted the ongoing feud between Apple v. FBI. The DOJ filed the motion on March 21, 2016, one day before the court decided whether Apple would be forced to hack into its own system. In its memorandum of points and authorities, the DOJ claimed that on March 20, 2016, an “outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone.” After successfully unlocking the iPhone, the government asked the federal judge to vacate the disputed order. Continue reading

Apple Encryption Under Fire: Judge Says FBI Can Force Apple to Hack its Own Encryption Systems

passcodeBy Brennen Johnson

The fight is back on between Apple and the FBI over encryption technology. In June 2014, we first covered Apple’s move to encrypt iOS 8 phones that could stump even the FBI. But the FBI wasn’t happy about it. Last November, we covered how the FBI sought a court order to force Apple to develop a method for breaking the encryption on these phones with “brute force.” However, the phone in that case ran older software that Apple could simply unlock, iOS 5, so the FBI wasn’t able to use the case as a stepping-stone to win the fight over encryption.

But as of last Tuesday, February 16, the heat turned up when a Federal Magistrate Judge ordered Apple to provide the FBI with software and technical support to help crack an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Authorities recovered the iOS 9 phone after a married couple, Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others last December. After the judge issued the order, Apple CEO Tim Cook called the order a “dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties,” while other tech giants, like Google, stated their own support for Apple: Continue reading