Richmond Journal of Law and Technology

The first exclusively online law review.

Month: October 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Blog: One Week, Two Big Facebook Stories

by Fiona Clancy, Associate Staff


On Monday, October 14, 2013, two girls, ages twelve and fourteen were arrested in Florida and charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony.[1]  The charges against the two suspects stem from their cyberbullying of Rebecca Sedwick, just twelve years old, who killed herself in September.[2]  Rebecca had been targeted by the two suspects over the course of ten months, with the suspects posting harassing online messages, among them that Rebecca should kill herself.[3]  Florida Sheriff Grady Judd said the tipping point for making the arrests on Monday was one of the suspects allegedly posted a callous message about Rebecca’s death on Facebook the Saturday before, which included her acknowledging she bullied Rebecca.[4]


“Yes ik [I know] I bullied REBECCA nd she killed herself but IDGAF [I don’t give a (expletive)]”[5]


On Wednesday, October 16, 2013, two days later, Facebook announced its new privacy policy for teens.[6]  Never before were teens able to make their Facebook posts, pictures, and videos publically visible to anyone and everyone.[7]  Facebook describes the policy change for teens as “a new option to share broadly,” claiming teens “want to be heard.”[8]  While the Facebook news release features one post about a teen publicizing a food drive, and another post about a teen running in a 10k charity run as examples of this new policy in action, one can easily imagine the dark side of this new power in the wake of Rebecca Sedwick’s torment and subsequent suicide.[9]


Cyberbullying among teens is a recognized problem in this country, and is its effects are serious.  A 2011 study found that 16% of high school students were electronically bullied in the past year, and that kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, skip school, have lower self-esteem, and have more health problems.[10]  Cyberbullying is especially troubling because kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.[11]  Before Rebecca’s suicide, she had run away from home, been hospitalized for cutting herself, and had changed schools to escape the torment, but the bullying continued online.[12]


So why did Facebook decide to change its teen privacy policy?  Reports speculate that Facebook’s change is motivated by a desire to increase its bottom line.[13]  Marketing and advertising companies that work with Facebook are eager to reach impressionable young consumers and target their advertisements to them.[14]  Now that teen users will be able to post information publicly, marketers and advertisers will glean more information about those teens, which they will use to personalize advertisements directed specifically to them.[15]


On the legal front, some say the felony charges filed in Florida may mark a turning point in how U.S. law enforcement agencies handle the problem of cyberbullying and stalking, with national ramifications for the prosecution of such cases.[16]  Sheriff Judd said he hoped the arrests would have an impact on cyberbullying, and some say Judd’s tough stance electrifies the growing movement to intensify the battle against juvenile bullying, which has increased and intensified in the era of social media.[17]  Even before the arrests, Florida took the lead nationally in 2004 when it passed a major cyberbullying amendment to its criminal code, which spurred other states to follow suit.[18]


Time will tell how these two events, which intersected so poignantly last week, will continue to play out for teens in this country.

[1] Doug Stanglin and William A. Welch, Two Girls Arrested on Bullying Charges After Suicide, USA TODAY (Oct. 16, 2013, 8:11 AM),

[2] Id.

[3] Ralph Vartabedian, Charges Against Girls In Suicide May Have National Ramifications, Los Angeles Times (Oct. 18, 2013, 12:39 PM),,1903818,7760714.story?page=2.

[4] Stanglin and Welch, supra note 1.

[5] Stanglin and Welch, supra note 1.

[6] Teen’s Now Start With “Friends” Privacy for New Accounts; Adding the Option to Share Publicy, Facebook Newsroom (Oct. 16, 2013),

[7] Vindu Goel, Facebook Eases Privacy Rules for Teenagers, New York Times (Oct. 17, 2013, 9:31 AM),

[8] Teen’s Now Start With “Friends”, supra note 6

[9] Teen’s Now Start With “Friends”, supra note 6

[10] What is Cyberbullying?, (last visited Oct. 20, 2013, 11:30 PM),

[11] Id.

[12] Stanglin and Welch, supra note 1.

[13] Eric Rosenbaum, Facebook’s ‘Don Draper’ Wants to Pitch Teens, CNBC (Oct. 19, 2013, 7:00 AM),

[14] Id.

[15] Goel, supra note 7.

[16] Vartabedian, supra note 3.

[17] Vartabedian, supra note 3.

[18] Vartabedian, supra note 3.

Blog: Express Yourself…With Caution! – "Likes" on Facebook

by Jessica Ertel, Associate Staff


How many times have you subconsciously clicked the thumbs up button on Facebook?  Every time you log onto Facebook, it is inevitable that something amusing, smart, or relatable will pop up on your news feed which will warrant the social sign of approval, the “like.”  Facebook processes approximately 2.7 billion of these “likes” every day.[1] While Facebook liking simply seems to be yet another form of social interaction, it actually has greater consequences than one might realize.   

Recently, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “liking” on Facebook constituted protected free speech.[2]  When a former deputy sheriff in Hampton, Virginia, pressed the thumbs up button for his boss’s opposing candidate in the Sheriff election, he suffered an adverse employment action.  By simply liking a Sheriff candidate’s Facebook page, Daniel Ray Carter was expressing his political opinions, expressions that deserve the highest Constitutional protection.  However, the Court noted that this First Amendment level of protection fluctuates depending on whether an individual who has a policymaking role is expressing opinions that intersect with or undermine that public role.  Since a certain political affiliation was not an appropriate requirement for Carter’s job, his political expression on Facebook was given significant protection.  It was improper for Carter to be fired for showing political support for a Sheriff candidate.  

Undoubtedly, every U.S. citizen has the right to freedom of speech.  Yet, it makes sense that an employer can take their employee’s political beliefs into account when that employee’s job necessarily entails policymaking.  An employer will probably not want to hire someone whose Facebook page is stamped with Hitler support groups or racist slurs.  Thus, there is a caveat to the ruling that Facebook “liking” is protected free speech.  While such speech is one’s Constitutional right, that expression is inevitably made public and thus available to whoever happens upon your Facebook page.

The same is true for one’s Twitter account.  Even though there is an option to make one’s Twitter profile private, this social media site provides in its Privacy Policy that any information that a user posts is considered publicly available information.[3]  In a New York case, the Court ruled that the defendant’s Twitter account could be subpoenaed after he participated in an Occupy Wall Street march on the Brooklyn Bridge.[4]  Presumably, the defendant’s political expressions on Twitter would be used against him to prove that he participated in this protest in which he was arrested for disorderly conduct. 

Since Facebook liking now qualifies as protected First Amendment speech, it seems that tweeting should qualify as well.  And, although these social media expressions are guaranteed Constitutional protection, that does not diminish the fact that these expressions are made public.  An employer cannot fire someone for their political expressions on Facebook or Twitter, but there is still the reminder that those opinions and views are out there for the world to see.

[1] Ashlee Vance, Facebook: The Making of 1 Billion Users, Bus. Wk., Oct. 4, 2012, at 2, available at

[2] Bland v. Roberts, 12-1671, 2013 WL 5228033 (4th Cir. Sept. 18, 2013), as amended (Sept. 23, 2013).

[4] People v. Harris, 36 Misc. 3d 613, 619, 945 N.Y.S.2d 505, 509 (Crim. Ct. 2012). 

Blog: The CSI Effect

by Emma Buck, Associate Staff


Like millions of Americans, I appreciate a good crime show where you can cheer on the good guys and count down the episodes until Bones and Booth or Castle and Beckett or DiNozzo and David get together. However, this harmless entertainment may be creating jury biases that are very hard to account for and eliminate. With the rise of television shows such as CSI, NCIS, Bones, and Law and Order, many legal professionals speculate that jurors with no criminal justice or forensic science experience are approaching trials with an innate bias formed from viewing these programs. While some say that these shows assist the jury in following criminal proceedings, prosecutors and defense attorneys alike argue that jurors are unable to objectively view the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence presented at trial because they have formed unrealistic expectations of what is normal in a criminal trial.[1] This phenomenon is referred to as the “CSI Effect.”

In the recent and highly publicized Zimmerman trial, the prosecution faced problems related to the CSI Effect. In his closing statement, prosecuting attorney John Guy stated, “There are no Rachel Jeantels on CSI.”[2] Rachel Jeantel was Trayvon Martin’s friend who was on the phone with him moments before he died. She has been ridiculed across the nation for her informal and hostile testimony during the trial.[3] However, witnesses are individuals and the majority of them are not going to be as polished and articulate as those seen on shows such as CSI. Guy’s comment highlights the prosecution’s concern that, despite the probative value of her testimony, jurors may not respect the evidence provided by Jeantel simply because it is not what they expect to see from a star witness.

Prosecutors struggle with the CSI Effect when there is a limited amount or complete lack of physical evidence.[4] In television dramas, the brilliant forensic scientist (whose office is somehow just an elevator ride away from both the interrogation room and the coroner’s office—looking at you, NCIS) is always able to recover a fiber or a hair or a bead of sweat that conclusively ties the suspect to the crime. These expectations are simply not realistic. Many cases are decided based on non-scientific data, such as witness testimonies, or when the physical evidence is a piece of the puzzle rather than the conclusive answer.[5] These juries also know of the tests that can be used and are hesitant to convict without knowing that Abby has run everything through the mass spec, even if these tests are unnecessary. To combat this, some prosecutors have even taken to having experts provide negative evidence, testifying that these tests are unnecessary and that the evidence was thoroughly processed.[6]

While this issue is primarily felt on the side of the prosecution, defense attorneys also claim that the CSI Effect has made their jobs more difficult.[7] When there is physical evidence, jurors are unlikely to question its validity. Essentially, the extreme sophistication and likeability of television’s forensic heroes and heroines has left jurors with the impression that once evidence has been gathered, it is flawless.[8] Defense attorneys must carefully point out potential flaws in the evidence in hopes that the jurors are willing to ignore their preconceived notions about the criminal justice system operating smoothly and with complete accuracy.

Litigators across the nation have taken action to minimize the impact of the CSI Effect on juries. This has primarily come in the form of adapting voir dire questions to determine whether the CSI Effect will influence a juror, crafting jury instructions that minimize jury miscomprehension, and utilizing expert witnesses for both positive and negative evidence.[9] Some states have specifically approved voir dire questions related to the CSI Effect.[10] While we would all like to believe that jurors are able to separate what they see on television from the realities of the courtroom, lawyers must be prepared to handle these unrealistic expectations. So next time that you curl up to watch Temperance “Bones” Brennan discover the murder location based on dust residue in the victim’s bones from the murder weapon, remember that criminal law is not “as seen on TV.”










Blog: Vindictive Exes Need to Find a New Outlet: States Consider Outlawing ‘Revenge Porn’

by Taylor Linkous, Associate Staff

Technology and pornography–one of the great love stories of our time. That’s right; technology and porn have always had an exciting, juicy, and mutually beneficial relationship.  Where technology goes, porn follows.  Take the Polaroid camera. Much of the success of the Polaroid camera is said to come from the fact that people could take explicit photos without having to go to the store to get the film developed.[1]  Now, cell phones and more specifically, camera phones have seemed to give people this same sense of privacy and promiscuity.  However, this is a false sense of privacy considering we now have the internet, an amazing, yet very scary place where your boyfriend, girlfriend, or whoever else comes across these explicit photos can post them for the world to see.  This is called revenge porn.

 Revenge porn is a nude picture or video that is publicly shared on the internet, usually by an ex-lover, for the purpose of humiliation.[2] This happened to Holly Jacobs, a Florida woman who is now a strong advocate of strengthening laws against revenge porn and who founded the website End Revenge Porn.[3] Jacobs found out from a friend that nude photos she had sent to her ex-boyfriend had been posted on her Facebook and then later to hundreds of revenge porn websites. Even more disturbing was that her name, email address, and place of business were posted along with the pictures.[4] As if finding out your body was exposed to the entire internet world was not enough, she went to the police only to discover they could do nothing for her. 

Currently, the act of posting revenge porn is a crime in only two states, New Jersey and just recently, California.  New Jersey’s Title 2C: 14-9 is an invasion of privacy law which is directed at people who secretly photograph or videotape another person while they are naked or engaged in sexual activity without their consent.[5]  Although the law was not drafted with the criminalization of revenge porn in mind, it was written broad enough to apply to revenge porn situations. 

About a month ago, the California legislature passed SB 255, a revenge porn bill introduced by Senator Cannella.  Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on October 1st and it went into effect immediately.[6]  The law makes posting revenge porn a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.[7]

Revenge porn has become a hot topic in recent months as a couple of other states have attempted to draft legislation specifically directed at criminalizing revenge porn.  This past year, Florida, the home state of Holly Jacobs, tried and failed to pass a revenge porn law.[8]  Also, just recently, New York Senator Joseph Griffo and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein announced they would introduce a bill criminalizing revenge porn.[9] The Wisconsin legislature is also considering a revenge porn bill.[10]

Many have voiced concerns about enacting laws that ban revenge porn. First, the failure of the Florida bill was partly due to concerns that such a law would abridge free speech in violation of the First Amendment.[11]  Similar concerns have been expressed regarding California’s newly enacted revenge porn law.  The ACLU initially opposed the bill because of First Amendment concerns, but has since changed this position and stated there are no objections to the bill.[12]  While most would agree that revenge porn is repulsive and wrong, it may be difficult to strike the right balance with a law that successfully bans the posting of revenge porn without simultaneously restricting legitimate free speech. 

Next, many people don’t see a point in criminalizing this activity as victims are already able to file civil suits against the person who posted the pictures.  However, filing a civil suit takes lots of time and money.  Moreover, the reality is that once these pictures are posted to a revenge porn website, they will spread like wildfire all over internet and are next to impossible to take down.  A civil suit won’t really remedy this issue.  Threatening criminal penalties for posting revenge porn may be a better way to deal with the problem as it will discourage people from posting the pictures in the first place.

On the flipside, there are also concerns that revenge porn laws could be written too narrow.  For example, as written, California’s new law makes revenge porn illegal only if the photo was taken by the same person who distributes it and that person must have distributed the picture with the intent to cause serious emotional distress.[13]  This means that if a girl takes the naked picture of herself and sends it to her boyfriend and then her boyfriend later posts the picture on a revenge porn website, the California law would not apply.  Moreover, showing that a person posted revenge porn with the intent to cause serious emotional distress may be difficult to prove.  People may post these pictures intending to make money rather than with an intent to cause emotional distress.  

There are still many questions to be answered about criminalizing revenge porn.  While state laws criminalizing revenge porn are a start, it may be necessary for federal law to address the issue.  It will be interesting to see how many states follow California’s lead and whether Congress decides to step in. 

Finally, in case you’re interested, a revenge porn case popped up in local news in the last month as the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Denise Lunsford, filed for a protective order in Missouri against her former lover, David Cosgrove, former chief legal counsel to Governor Bob Holden, for posting nude pictures of her on the Internet.[14]  Cosgrove has asked the judge to dismiss the request and sanction Lunsford for “filing an unnecessary legal complaint.”[15]


[7] Id.

[10] Id.

[15] Id.


Blog: Aging Adults and Technology

by Morgan Ackerman, Managing Editor


Admittedly aging adults is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the intersection of law and technology. However, there have been many recent technological advancements to aid aging adults and their caregivers. These advancements are aimed to both enable seniors to live at-home longer, and to help their caregivers.[1]

            Some of these advancements include Smartphone applications that help track medications[2], GPS trackers to monitor aging adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia[3], sensors, skin detectors, and social interaction tools.[4] All of these new technologies are making it possibly for many seniors to live independently, and for those caring for seniors, to better care for them. Along with these life enhancing, and life saving technologies comes potential legal ramifications. 

            The Supreme Court recently ruled that placing a GPS tracker on a car is considered a search under the 4th Amendment.[5]  Police will now need to obtain a warrant to lawfully place a GPS tracker on cars of criminal suspects. The court’s ruling leaves open the question of whether individuals can place GPS trackers on others. Private investigators have used the term “electronic stalking” when referring to the misuse of GPS trackers, and this is a serious concern surrounding GPS trackers.[6]

             In the context of aging adults, the use of GPS trackers to monitor seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia seems to be a gray area. Likely, individuals tracking these adults are family or medical professionals that have gained consent to track individuals. However, this technology has an extraordinary potential for abuse and has yet to be regulated.

            Smartphone applications that help track medications may be the targets of medical malpractice lawsuits.[7]  Currently, Apple’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement indemnifies Apple from liability for all iPhone applications, and places liability on the individual developers.[8] The potential that these medicine-tracking apps could have a glitch, or malfunction is high. A glitch or a malfunction could seriously harm a person relying on the app. The potential harm on the elderly population, that might solely rely on the app to remind them to take their medication, could have an even greater harm. With Apple’s indemnity clause, this leaves the Smartphone application developers liable. There has yet to be a medical malpractice case for medical Smartphone apps, but medical malpractice experts and the FDA foresee this scenario arising.

            Given the reality of such problems the FDA recently issued final rules on the development of medical Smartphone applications.[9] However, the FDA did not issue regulations of medicine reminders, caloric in-take, heart monitors, etc. leaving these types of medical apps unregulated.

            Overall, the implications of modern technology that aids the aging populations are positive, but the legal consequences should be kept in mind.


[1] Mario Sollitto, Technology for Elderly Enhances Health, Safety,,   Technology for Elderly Enhances Health, Safety

[2] MedCoach Medication Reminder,,

[3]Elderly & Special Needs GPS Tracking, Brick House Security,

[4] Mario Sollitto, Technology for Elderly Enhances Health, Safety,

[5] United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. ____, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012); see also Adam Liptak, Police use of GPS is Ruled Unconstitutional,,

[6] Id.

[7] Satish Misra, iPhone Medical Apps Medical May Be Targets of Medical Malpractice,,

[8] Id.

[9] Melissa Gall, FDA Announces Regulations of Medical Smartphone Apps, Locum Tenens Daily,

Sedona Conference® to Use JOLT Article at 10th Annual Georgetown Law Center Advanced e-Discovery Institute Program

For ten years, the Sedona Conference® has been working together with the Georgetown Advanced e-Discovery Institute to produce the finest e-Discovery education in the nation. To celebrate the ten year anniversary of this unique collaboration, the Sedona e-Discovery Cooperation Training Program will come to Georgetown on November 21 to host three concurrent sessions entitled “Cooperation in Practice.” Each session will feature a panel of experts, including state and federal judges, who will review and critique the performance of two teams assigned to negotiate the scope of discovery in an employment discrimination case.

The Sedona Conference® has requested permission to include a JOLT article as part of the materials used to familiarize the team participants and attendees with the case study and the practical tools for cooperative advocacy. The article requested was included in Vol. XVIII, Issue 3 , and titled Cooperation – What Is It and Why Do It? by Hon. David J. Waxse. 

The Sedona Conference® is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) research and educational institute dedicated to the advanced study of law and policy in the areas of antitrust law, complex litigation, and intellectual property rights.  The Sedona Conference’s mission is to drive the reasoned and just advancement of law and policy by stimulating ongoing dialogue amongst leaders of the bench and bar to achieve consensus on critical issues.

To learn more about the upcoming program, please visit

sedona conference logo



Blog: Privacy Concerns and the New iPhone

by Silvia Lee, Associate Staff


People waited in lines all over the world on Friday, September 20th to purchase Apple’s latest release, the iPhone 5s. Among the mobile device’s new features is a fingerprint scanner built into the home button. After an initial set-up, Apple’s proprietary “Touch ID” technology can scan sub-epidermal layers to allow users to unlock their phones and make iTunes purchases by scanning their fingerprint. Addressing privacy and security issues, Apple has stated that the biometric data is encrypted and stored only on the device and the information will not be sent to Apple’s servers or Cloud service. In addition, third party apps will not have access to the Touch ID system.

The much talked-about feature has at least one lawmaker voicing his concerns. Senator Al Franken, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, has written a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook in which he poses several questions regarding the new technology. One of his concerns is whether Apple considers the biometric data to be “contents” of communication or a “subscriber number or identity.”[1] Under the Stored Communication Act, “content” cannot be freely disclosed to law enforcement agencies without a warrant, while “subscriber number or identity” requires only a subpoena.[2]  

            Senator Franken is also concerned with how secure the fingerprint scanner actually is. He notes that “[p]asswords are secret and dynamic; fingerprints are public and permanent.”[3] If a passcode is compromised, users can change it for a new one, but fingerprints are unique and unchangeable. He fears that someone could lift a user’s fingerprint and use it to hack into the phone and all the information stored within.

The idea of lifting a fingerprint and hacking into an iPhone 5s has been turned into a competition on a website launched by Nick DePetrillo and Robert Graham. The site is crowdfunding a bounty for the first Touch ID hack. The duo claims their motives are to show that it is more difficult than people think. The crowdfunding campaign has raised over $5,000.00 so far and garnered much attention on Twitter with the hashtag #istouchidhackedyet.[4] In order to win the bounty, the hackers must post a video detailing the process of lifting a fingerprint from an everyday object (like a beer mug) and using it to unlock an iPhone 5s.[5] As of 10:00 no official winner of the bounty has been declared, but the Chaos Computer club from Germany is rumored to have accomplished the feat and have published a step-by-step guide.[6]

So far Apple has stayed silent on the matter. However, with a successful Touch ID hack a mere two days after the phone’s release and Senator Franken’s request for answers to his queries within a month, Apple may be pushed to speak sooner than anticipated.

[1] Andrea Peterson & Hayley Tsukayama, Fingerprint Scanner for iPhone 5s Raises Privacy, Security Concerns, Wash. Post, (Sept. 20, 2013),

[2] Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Franken Questions Apple on Privacy Implications of New Fingerprint Technology, Al Franken (Sept. 20, 2013),

[3] Id.

[4] Adam Vrankulj, Can the iPhone 5s Be Spoofed With a Lifted Print? Hackers Crowdfund Reward to Find Out, Biometric Update (Sept. 20, 2013), (Arturus Rosenbacker originally pledged $10,000 toward the bounty but has since been discovered as a scammer,

[5] istouchidhackedyet, (last visited Sept. 22, 2013 11:30 P.M.).

[6] How to Fake Fingerprints? Chaos Computer Club, (Sept. 22, 2013),

Blog: Google’s Street View Captures More Than Just Pictures

by Dylan Denslow, Associate Staff


If you ask someone a question and they don’t know the answer, it’s a fair guess that their answer will be “Google it.”  These days, it seems like Google is used for everything – it’s expanded much further than a simple Internet search engine.  While this expansion has its fair share of benefits, it also means that Google continues to collect even more piles of data from its users.  However, just recently the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion in Joffe v. Google that will rein in some of Google’s activity and have implications for other Internet users.


Google’s Street View program is a feature connected to the company’s popular Google Maps and Google Earth applications, which allows users to see 360-degree panoramic images of cities from a street-level perspective.  Google provides this service by sending computer-filled vehicles with cameras down city streets. While capturing street images between 2008 and 2010, Google’s Street View cars simultaneously collected around 600 gigabytes of data transmitted over Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries.  Among the types of data captured were personal emails, usernames, passwords, videos and documents[1].


The US Wiretap Act generally prohibits the intentional interception, use, or disclosure of wire, oral and electronic communications unless a statutory exception allows for such activity.[2] One such exception involves communications that are readily accessible to the public, such as radio communications[3]


In Joffe v. Google, Google argued that the case should be dismissed based on the theory that its collection of data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks fit within the Wiretap Act’s exception covering communications readily available to the public.  However, the Ninth Circuit felt otherwise and held that “Google’s collection of data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks under its Street View program is not exempt from federal wiretap laws.”[4]  Specifically, the court noted that unencrypted Wi-Fi networks do not qualify as radio communications and that they are not electronic communications readily accessible to the general public.[5] This case represented the first time an appellate court addressed the issue and made a determination on the Wiretap Act’s applicability to unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.[6]


The practical implication of this ruling is that anyone who intercepts your information on an unencrypted Wi-Fi network may be punished. Anyone can join an unencrypted network, and once joined all of the data on the network is available to all connected devices. Without hacking, it is easy to collect data from these networks both intentionally or unintentionally. Some privacy experts are concerned that going forward, this court’s holding has the potential to “create accidental outlaws of researchers, and the generally technical and curious.”[7] Because of the relative ease in accessing data on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, Internet users and researchers in particular should be aware that even their unintended use of an open Wi-Fi network may expose them to potential legal risks.


[1] Google Street View ruling denotes “landmark” privacy case on Wi-Fi-enabled data collection, SC Magazine, (last visited September 22, 2013).

[2] See 18 U.S.C. § 2511 (2013).

[3] Id.

[4]Google loses appeal in Street View privacy lawsuit, PC World Australia, (last visited September 22, 2013).

[5] Apparently Open WiFI is actually private, The Privacy Blog, (last visited September 22, 2013).

[6] Google Street View ruling denotes “landmark” privacy case on Wi-Fi-enabled data collection, SC Magazine, (last visited September 22, 2013).

[7] Id.

Blog: The Dangers of Keyloggers

by Miles Jolley, Associate Staff


A few college kids have recently found themselves in federal hot water for taking advantage of campus computers.  For two different but sinister ends, Matthew Weaver and Marcus Barrington used keyloggers to steal others’ online usernames and passwords.  If you’re like me, you have hopefully never encountered this technology.  Keyloggers are covert devices that can easily assist ne’er-do-wells in stealing your identity and accessing personal information.  Also, if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised at how obtainable these are and the relatively weak legal response preventing their use.  First, let’s marvel at the idiocy of these students.

Matthew Weaver was running for student council president at California State University, San Marcos in March of 2012.  Instead of kissing babies and shaking hands, he decided to steal the election.  Weaver installed keyloggers on campus computers to steal other students’ university network usernames and passwords in order to cast hundreds of votes for himself.  Once university officials got wise, they involved federal investigators.  The election ended up winning Weaver a year in jail for committing identity theft, wire fraud, and unauthorized access to a computer.[1]

Barrington was a student at Florida A&M University and similarly used keyloggers to access the school’s Registrar’s system.  Once Barrington infiltrated the system, he altered grades and other vital information.  All total, there were over 650 changes made which involved over 90 students.  Barrington wound up with 84 months in prison for various identity theft and fraud convictions.[2]

Keyloggers are computer applications that record your keystrokes.  The common criminal usage of a keylogger is for stealing online usernames and passwords that protect email accounts, online banking, you name it.  They come in both hardware and software formats and all it takes is a little internet surfing to get your hands on one.  Legitimate companies market keyloggers to IT admins and parents that want to track activity on their computers.  However, it is easy for criminals to wield this otherwise legal technology for wrongdoing.[3]

The reality is that this is a hard situation to remedy.  Nowhere in the federal code is the illegal use of a keylogger specifically mentioned.  Lawmakers attempted to pass relevant provisions in 2007 with the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act, but it died in the Senate after twice passing the House.  The law would make illegal “[c]ollecting personally identifiable information through the use of a keystroke logging function.”[4]  A clear law such as this might make technology companies think twice about to whom they sell keyloggers.  Additionally, this definitive language would let potential criminals know there will be consequences for illicit use.  However, until more is done, these devices will be used to take advantage of innocent, hard-working Americans.

[1] Press Release, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cal State San Marcos Student Sentenced for Rigging Campus Elections (July 15, 2013),  

[2] United States v. Barrington, 648 F.3d 1178, 1183-85 (11th Cir. 2011).

[3] Sachin Shetty, Introduction to Spyware Keyloggers, (Apr. 13, 2005),

[4] Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act, H.R. 964, 110th Cong. § 2(a)(3) (2007).

Blog: Early NFL Matchups Giving Superbowl Stiff Competition

by Walton Milam, Associate Staff


Though the Superbowl typically provides the best television advertisement of the year, the 2014 political races and particularly the Virginia gubernatorial election are giving the NFL championship a run for its money.   From Voldemort like voice overs to overly done images of the candidates sharing their vast knowledge of Virginia agriculture and manufacturing techniques, these candidates make it clear that they are the key to a more prosperous Virginia and that their opponent is downright evil.  Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli have managed to spend what are likely millions in television marketing without making a single argument, instead relying on a litany of inductive fallacies that leave me laughing every time.[1] [2] 


Sadly, these commercials must be indicative of what political entities believe will sway voters.  Given the immense money spent by political groups across the nation to determine what campaigning tactics yields results, I think politicians vying for 2014 positions are likely catering to the demands of voters who are affected more by emotionally charged ad hominems than a candidate who ventures to make an argument.   The televised town halls meetings associated with Obamacare left me with impression that American political discourse is devolving to the “rabble- rabble” type meetings that occur on Southpark rather than a market of competing ideas that supposedly lead to a more fruitful society. 


Unfortunately both voters and politicians face incentives that give little reason to think the nature of political campaigns will change.  Voters face the prospect of choosing a “superior” candidate or facing the stigma of foregoing their civic duty to participate in elections.   This dilemma will likely force voters to give into the lesser of two evils and vote in November.  Hopeful politicians must get elected to have any impact and are willing to do what is necessary to achieve their end goal, including waging political warfare that does not actually get to any meaningful issue.


The perplexing issue facing voters is how to change demands so that politicians vying for office will be forced to switch campaigning tactics so that there is meaningful argument that involves improved government rather than alleged personal issues facing their political opponents.  Perhaps the best approach is the one put forth by PJ O’Rourke, to abstain from voting as it only encourages the political machine that their campaigning tactics and efforts are worthwhile.[3]


As mentioned supra, the prospect of abstaining from elections altogether is viewed with disdain as many consider election participation a fundamental element of American democracy.  O’Rourke’s idea then, though well-taken, will not sit well with a majority of voters and thus will not likely be a mechanism through which the nature of political campaigning shifts.


Long terms solutions might come through an improved education system through which both voters and potential elected officials come to understand the importance of using argument rather than fallacy.  This solution will have little impact in the short run and seems even more bleak as education policy stems from the same elected officials waging campaigns today. 


Though a solution seems distant, I think it is important to understand that the lack of inductive argument is a major issue in political races and all facets of society.  While I am entirely confident that this blog post will have a statistically insignificant impact on the 2014 Virginia Governor’s election and the commercials associated with it, I think informal discussion of argument and fallacy can only be helpful.[4]


At least the Virginia race is sure to provide us with more entertainment.  I can’t wait for the debates.   





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