Articles Posted in Internet Law

Part I: DMV Sale of Personal Information

A group has investigated and allegedly found that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has earned more than $50 million by selling personal information of drivers to third parties without consent. This data may include names, addresses, and registration information. The DMV claims on its website that it does not sell information to advertisers or marketers for advertising or direct marketing purposes. It also claims that:

Most information acquired by the DMV is subject to public inspection under Vehicle Code Section 1808. Other statutes, regulations or laws governing subpoenas, discovery for litigation, Public Records Act requests, and commercial requestor requester accounts also apply to information gathered at this website. However, various provisions of law do prohibit or restrict the disclosure of certain electronically transmitted information such as social security numbers, residence addresses, and credit card accounts numbers. DMV also uses the information gathered on this website to help improve this website. For example, by tracking the number of website visitors, the date of visit, and the pages visited, DMV can balance resources so that the maximum number of visitors can obtain needed information. Additionally, by tracking what visitor software is being used (e.g. browser) DMV can avoid using features that visitors can not view or use.

Quantum computing technology will be affecting most of us in a direct or indirect way. We have stated in a prior article that: “A quantum computer is a highly-advanced computer system that works exponentially faster than today’s conventional computers. Quantum computing is the practice of studying quantum computers and their potential. This practice is growing and has caused the rapid decrease in the size of computers at the same time as these systems are rapidly increasing in their capability.”

Now, quantum computing has become a reality and technology companies have launched projects in order to compete in this sector. The question is how quantum computers will affect us.

First, since quantum computers are faster than conventional computers, they can break passwords or decrypt encryptions in a shorter time. This has caused concern over privacy and security which has forced companies to invest in quantum resistant cryptography. This technology and its potential ramifications on encrypted networks will also affect EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which outlines the rules and regulations for protecting unauthorized access. The United States government has also reacted and Congress has passed H.R. 6227 in order to implement the National Quantum Initiative Act that states as follows:

The basic rules for commercial emails should be known by all business organizations. They should include having proper identifiers, opt-out mechanisms, and a valid mailing address in all commercial emails. In fact, the CAN-SPAM Act states that the senders of commercial emails will be acting legally if:

1) The header of the commercial email (indicating the sending source, destination and routing information) doesn’t contain materially false or materially misleading information;

2) The subject line doesn’t contain deceptive information;

Internet spam violations have increased in the past years. For example, the spammers use the interconnected network of computers that links us together in the world to disseminate malware. The spammers also use the internet to send junk email that fills up email accounts and can be used to commit online fraud – e.g., identify theft.

Robocall violations have also increased in the past years. For example, the robocallers use the telephone systems to continuously call without proper authorization. They do not state their personal or business organization’s names. They call before or after the permissible time periods (i.e., before 8:00 am/after 9:00 pm). They call by using artificial voices or recordings. They may also use automated telephone equipment to make the phone calls.

What are the legal remedies?

There have been cases where spammers have transmitted spam via email and text messages. These messages can include improper content, propaganda, hidden messages, and malware (e.g., virus, trojan, ransomware, adware, spyware). The spammers use the Internet Service Provider’s and user’s bandwidth to disseminate spam which results in bandwidth saturation, lost productivity, and other complications.

What is spam?

Spam is unsolicited commercial email advertisement that is sent towards recipients by third parties. An “unsolicited commercial email advertisement” means a commercial email advertisement that: (1) The recipient has not provided direct consent to receive advertisements from the advertiser; and (2) The recipient does not have a preexisting or current business relationship with the advertiser.

Internet of Things is more extensive than the Internet itself. It constitutes the combination of all electronic devices that are connected on the web and are able to communicate with each other. It is different from the Internet because it is essentially governed by information that is stored by electronic devices without human intervention. Now, smart devices can be connected through complex network systems and embedded sensors. These smart devices include, phones, refrigerators, thermostats, automobiles, or pills that allow medical professionals monitor a patient’s health status. These technological advancements enable smart devices to communicate in real time and promote the process of developing a more intelligent environment.

Artificial Intelligence is the intelligence demonstrated by machines in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. It allows machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform human-like tasks.  It relies heavily on deep learning and natural language processing. It uses neural networks which are a combination of software and hardware devices that are designed to emulate the operation of neurons in the human brain.

Smart Dust is a system of tiny microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) such as sensors or robots that detect light, temperature, vibration, magnetism, or chemicals. They are usually operated on a computer network wirelessly and distributed over an area to perform tasks by sensing through radio-frequency identification. This technology is able to collect and transmit data which can be uploaded to the cloud or other remote location.

Virtual reality (VR) is an experience taking place within simulated and immersive environments that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. It can be used for educational and entertainment purposes.  Also, augmented reality or mixed reality are other types of this technology.

The current systems use some kind of device (e.g., headsets or multi-projected environments) to create images, sounds, or other sensations in order to take the user into the virtual environment. The users can submerge themselves into the virtual environment and interact with the virtual features as if they are real.  The effect is generated by special headsets that yield a head-mounted display with a tiny screen before the eyes, but can also be created through specially designed rooms with big screens. This technology includes visual and auditory feedback, and can also permit other types of senses or feedback through haptic technology.

What are the potential legal issues?

Smart Dust is a system of tiny microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) which include sensors or robots that are able to detect light, temperature, vibration, magnetism, or chemicals. They are usually operated on a computer network wirelessly and are distributed over an area to perform tasks by sensing through radio-frequency identification.

The concept for this technology came from the Research and Development Corporation (RAND) and a series of governmental studies for potential military applications. This technological advancement was influenced by science fiction authors who mentioned microrobots, artificial swarm intelligence, or necroevolution. Now, this new technology is capable of collecting and transmitting data to and from specific locations. These tiny electronic devices, which are also known as motes, can detect light, vibration, and temperature. Also, the data that is collected by these devices can be uploaded to the Cloud or other remote location for processing.

Smart Dust v. Internet of Things:

The Internet of Things is a relatively new development that has changed the world. However, the laws were either non-existent or archaic. Now, it’s important to inform our readers that Jerry Brown has signed a cybersecurity law covering “smart” devices. The bill, SB-327, was introduced last year and states in relevant part that:

Existing law requires a business to take all reasonable steps to dispose of customer records within its custody or control containing personal information when the records are no longer to be retained by the business by shredding, erasing, or otherwise modifying the personal information in those records to make it unreadable or undecipherable. Existing law also requires a business that owns, licenses, or maintains personal information about a California resident to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information, to protect the personal information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure. Existing law authorizes a customer injured by a violation of these provisions to institute a civil action to recover damages.

This bill, beginning on January 1, 2020, would require a manufacturer of a connected device, as those terms are defined, to equip the device with a reasonable security feature or features that are appropriate to the nature and function of the device, appropriate to the information it may collect, contain, or transmit, and designed to protect the device and any information contained therein from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure, as specified.

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has evolved rapidly over the past couple of decades.  The uses of AI have extended to different segments of our society, and humans have benefitted from it in various ways.  Lawyers and legal researchers have also found ways to harness the power of AI.  AI has enabled them to sort through month’s, or even year’s, worth of information in minutes.  This is especially helpful when considering how, according to IBM, over 90% of all data was created in the last two years.  However, AI in the law goes far beyond its practical uses by lawyers for information gathering and discovery.  The rise of AI has presented a number of issues and questions in the legal field, especially involving products liability.

AI and Products Liability

Recently, companies have used AI both in their creation of products, and in the products themselves.  A major issue regarding this is who should be held liable in the event the AI product causes an accident or an injury.  There is debate on whether the programmer or manufacturer of the AI product should be held liable, as well as which legal standard should apply in cases involving AI.  A main reason for this issue is the rapidness that AI has developed over the recent decades.  The government and other regulatory bodies have had difficulty keeping up with how quickly AI has evolved.  This has left people who develop AI and manufacture products from it unsure on how AI will be regulated in the future.  Adding to this issue is how there are a number of different definitions used to describe AI, as well as how it has a wide variety of usages.  While companies have benefitted greatly from AI, they also must recognize the risks its use may create for them.