Tag: court cases

The US now takes serious action about electoral disinformation


Now Uncle Sam is taking action on voter suppression

US arrests far-right Twitter troll for 2016 election interference | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

United States Department Of Justice

Social Media Influencer Charged with Election Interference Stemming from Voter Disinformation Campaign (Press Release)

My Comments

Previously, when I have talked about activities that social media companies have undertaken regarding misinformation during election cycles, including misinformation to suppress voter participation, I have covered what these companies in the private sector are doing.

But I have also wanted to see a healthy dialogue between the social-media private sector and public-sector agencies responsible for the security and integrity of the elections. This is whether they are an election-oversight authority like the  FEC in the USA or the AEC in Australia; a broadcast oversight authority like the FCC in the USA or OFCOM in the UK; or a consumer-rights authority like the FTC in the USA or the ACCC in Australia. Here, these authorities need to be able to know where the proper communication of electoral information is at risk so they can take appropriate education and enforcement action regarding anything that distorts the election’s outcome.

Just lately, the US government arrested a Twitter troll who had been running information on his Twitter feed to dissuade Americans from participating properly and making their vote count in the 2016 Presidential Election. Here, the troll was suggesting that they don’t attend the local polling booths but cast their vote using SMS or social media, which isn’t considered a proper means of casting your vote in the USA. Twitter had banned him and a number of alt-right figureheads that year for harrassment.

These charges are based on a little-known US statute that proscribes activity that denies or dissuades a US citizen’s right to exercise their rights under that country’s Constitution. That includes the right to cast a legitimate vote at an election.

But this criminal case could be seen as a means to create a “conduit” between social media platforms and the public sector to use the full extent of the law to clamp down on disinformation and voter suppression using the Web. I also see it as a chance for public prosecutors to examine the laws of the land and use them as a tool to work against the fake news and disinformation scourge.

This is a criminal matter before the courts of law in the USA and the defendent is presumed innocent unless he is found guilty in a court of law.

Litigation about broadband service expectations takes place in the UK


A UK court case is taking place regarding the standard of Internet service available in an apartment block

Owner of Multi-Million Pound UK Flat Sues Over Poor Broadband | ISP Review

Millionaire travel tycoon sues luxury flat owner for £100k over lack of broadband | Evening Standard

My Comments

In the UK, a person who bought a London apartment worth multiple millions of pounds is litigating the owners of the apartment building it is in because of substandard Internet service within the building.

They took up the lease on the apartment after being sold on the fact that there was to be proper Internet coverage to all rooms therein along with proper service within the building. But the service was below par before Hyperoptic ran fibre-optic Internet connectivity through the building in 2016. This led to him using public-access Wi-Fi at a local library and cafe as well as the home network and Internet service at his brother’s home before that installation.

This case, although litigated within the UK, touches on contract-law issues especially when it comes to the description of a premises that is subject to a lease or sale agreement. Here, it is pointing to the expected standard of broadband Internet service and network wiring that is provided within the premises. It is also of importance concerning what is being provided within high-density developments like apartment blocks that based around multiple premises being integrated in few buildings.

But the court case held at the Central London County Court is part of a larger conversation regarding access to multiple-premises developments like apartment blocks by communications infrastructure providers within the UK. This is no matter whether the development is at the budget or premium end of the price scale.

Concurrently, the UK Government are working on regulations regarding the provision of this infrastructure, whether to provide communications and Internet service to the premises in the development or to establish a mobile-telecommunications base station especially where a landlord or building committee who has oversight regarding the building won’t respond.

I see this case bring in to scope issues regarding how the standard of telecommunications services available to a premises is represented in its sale or lease contract. This will have a stronger affect on apartments and similar premises that are integrated within a larger building. It will also be part of the question about infrastructure providers’ access to these buildings and the premises therein.

In some areas, a court case may be necessary to encourage innovation


US judge makes Avaya give access to maintenance commands on some PBXes | PC World

My Comments

A recent US District Court (New Jersey) ruling was handed down requiring Avaya to expose maintenance commands for their business phone systems after the jury who heard an antitrust case concerning this company found that they unlawfully prevented maintenance access to these systems for their owners or independent third-party service contractors.

This case was about who can perform repair or maintenance work on IT systems especially where they are becoming more software-defined. The article even mentioned that this is heading out beyond the IT scene towards the maintenance of cars, “white-goods” and similar products especially as more of them have their functionality driven by software.

For example, I know of two friends who have had technicians look at their 30-plus-year-old ovens and the technicians have preferred to keep them going rather than replace them with newer ovens. This is because of issues like continual availability of parts for these stoves and the way that they can be repaired.

Here, it was about who can continue to perform service on the equipment concerned and the availability of the equipment’s owner to gain access to independent experts to keep it going. I see this also opening up doors for third-parties to continue to offer innovative software or other solutions that enhance the equipment or shape it to a user’s needs. This will extend to encouraging the implementation of “open-frame” designs for hardware and software which will push forward a culture of a level playing field and, in some cases, a longer service life for equipment.

Security issues concerning field-updatable device software raised in HP lawsuit


HP sued over security flaw in printers | Security – CNET News

My comments

An increasing trend that I have covered on this site and have noticed with equipment that I have reviewed is for the equipment to be updated with new firmware after it is sold to the customer.

Field-updating practices

Previously, this practice involved the device’s user using a regular computer as part of the update process. In a lot of cases, the user would download the update package to their computer and run a special program to deploy the update to the connected device. If the device, like a router, was connected via the network, the user uploaded the update package to the network-connected device via its management Web page or other network-file-transfer methods.

Now it is becoming more common for one to update the software in their device without the need to use a regular computer. This would be done using the setup options on the device’s control surface to check for and, if available, load newer firmware. 

It also includes the device automatically polling a server for new firmware updates and inviting the user to perform an update procedure or simply updating itself during off-hours for example; in a similar vein to the software-update mechanisms in Windows and MacOS.

As well, an increasing number of devices are becoming able to acquire new functionality through the use of “app stores” or the installation of add-on peripherals.

The HP lawsuit concerning printer firmware

Just last week, there has been a lawsuit filed against HP in San Jose District Court, California, USA concerning weaknesses in the firmware in some of their printers allowing for them to accept software of questionable origin. Issues that were raised were the ability to load modified software that could facilitate espionage or sabotage. This was discovered through lab-controlled experiments that were performed on some of the affected printers.

As all of us know, the firmware or apps are typically held on servers that can be easily compromised if one isn’t careful. This has been made more real with the recent Sony PlayStation Network break-ins, although data pertaining to users was stolen this time. But it could be feasible for a device to look for new firmware at a known server and find compromised software instead of the real thing.

They even raised the question not just about the software that is delivered and installed using a computer or network but the ability to install ROM or similar hardware chips in to the device to alter its functionality. I would also see this including the ability to pass in code through “debug” or “console” ports on these devices that are used to connect computers to the devices as part of the software-development process.

This could have implications as equipment like home appliances, HVAC / domestic-hot-water equipment and building security equipment become field-programmable and join the network all in the name of “smart energy” and building automation. Issues that can be raised include heaters, ovens or clothes dryers being allowed to run too hot and cause a fire or building alarm systems that betray security-critical information to the Social Web without the users knowing.

Further ramifications of this lawsuit

Device manufacturers will have to look at the firmware that governs their products in a similar vein to the software that runs regular and mobile computing equipment. This includes implementing authenticated software delivery, software rollback options and the requirement to keep customers in the loop about official software versions and change-logs (differences between software versions).

In some cases, business computing equipment like laser printers will have firmware delivered in a similar manner to how computer software is rolled out to regular computers in larger businesses. This includes software that enables centralised firmware deployment and the ability to implement trial-deployment scenarios when new firmware or add-on software is released.

Devices that have proper-operation requirements critical to data security or personnel / building safety and security may require highly-interactive firmware delivery augmented with digital-signature verification and direct software-update notification to the customer.

Similarly, security-software vendors may push for a system of integrating software solutions, including “edge-based” hardware firewall appliances in the process of software delivery to other devices.


What I would like to see out of this case if it is allowed to go “all the way” is that it becomes a platform where issues concerning the authenticity, veracity and safety of field-updatable firmware for specific-purpose devices are examined.

We can sell the Samsung Android tablets in Australia–for now


Samsung tablet ban lifted | The Age IT (Australia)

My Comments

This latest development is part of the patent war taking place concerning mobile devices, with this round of legal action by Apple against Samsung being more of a “patent on style”. Here, the goal of the Apple lawsuit was to prevent the sale of the Samsung Galaxy tablets and smartphones because they were seen as valid competition to the iPhone and iPad and it has been known that Apple aren’t keen on licensing their patent portfolio to others.

Now the Full Federal Court in Australia overturned an injunction prohibiting the sale of the Galaxy Tab series of tablet devices in in that country; as long as the sales were accounted for. But Apple intends to go to the High Court to maintain an injunction against further sale of these devices

While the initial Federal Court injunction was in place, there were attempts to parallel-import the devices in to Australia but these were met with threatening letters from Apple’s legal team. This is even though it was feasible for people to buy or have others buy the Galaxy Tab devices in other countries that don’t have an injunction in place against them, then bringing them in or having them posted or shipped in to Australia.

This case may have the soundings of similar action that Apple took concerning GUIs and the Macintosh, with it being resolved in a more competitive manner thus allowing for a level playing field.

Do we need to patent the style or interface of a device?


Apple v Samsung just the tip of the iceberg

My Comments

What the Apple v Samsung court case that is being litigated around many countries in the world is about is the attempt by manufacturers to patent the style or operation interface for classes of manufactured goods, i.e. tablet computers and smartphones.

A manufacturer may work out the style for a particular class of manufactured goods or determine a user interface that is going to be the way this class of goods will be operated. But do they need to patent this style or user interface and chase down to sue other manufacturers who implement this user interface or style.

Established design practices that I have observed

In the case of how manufactured goods are styled, I have seen a large number of device classes that have a very common style and user-interface in place. Take for example, Henry Ford who determined the layout and role of the pedals in a car with the clutch on the left, brake in the centre and accelerator (gas pedal) on the right. This was gradually implemented by other vehicle builders in the early days of the car and became the standard for foot control in the car. Here, you didn’t need to relearn vehicle-control skills and practices just to suit particular manufacturers’ vehicles. For a tablet computer, the multi-touch operating procedures like the “pinch-to-zoom” procedure are really about achieving a consistent user interface. For Apple to patent the multi-touch interface is utter nonsense.

Similarly, there have been devices that used the same or similar industrial design, usually with a few variations. A common example are the interlocking rim deadbolts used in the USA and Australia. A lot of these units have a very common styling, with the turn-knob being the only part that differs between manufacturers in most cases. There have also been the earlier “IBM clone” computers with a system box and monitor styled like the original IBM equipment. In one example the “clone” monitor had a third “on-off” knob as well as the brightness and contrast knobs that were part of IBM’s design. Of course the monitor had the same fascia as the IBM design.

I often find that the use of common designs or user interfaces can work to gain increased acceptance of the device class, while the manufacturers take tome to work on a unique industrial design or different features.

The Samsung Galaxy S smartphone – is it the same as the iPhone 3GS?

I don’t see the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone, which I own, as being a copy of the Apple iPhone 3GS. The differences that I would notice include the installation of the headphone and microUSB jacks on the top edge of the phone, a removeable back to gain access to the microSD card, USIM card and battery as well as two extra touch-buttons at the bottom of the screen that are part of the Android user interface.

A person may think that this phone is an iPhone clone due to the use of the black bezel around the display, a hardware “home” button and a faux-chrome strip around the phone’s edge. This would be more so when the phone is in a hibernation state. Similarly, a “swipe to unlock” user interface which may use different prompt graphics to Apple’s “slide-switch” graphic may still be considered as mimicking Apple’s user interface.

Ramifications of this legal battle

I would suspect that if Apple wins the legal battle on user-interface grounds, it could affect all touchscreen computing applications, whether with a smartphone, tablet computer or even touchscreen implementations in regular computing devices. This could even go as far as Microsoft’s touchscreen computing table or dynamic whiteboards that allow touch interactivity.

It may also affect the abovementioned design practice associated with implementing similar industrial designs in most manufactured goods or the user interface in computer software. It would be more so with the positioning or styling of visual cues in these designs and can even affect how buildings or interiors are styled in case they cross over a brand’s territory.


This issue of using patents to protect the style or user-interface of a manufactured device or computer program shouldn’t be used to stifle the creation of competitive devices and the exploitation of the technology. The concept of patents should be more about providing a way of exploiting the protected technology in a competitive manner but with proper attribution.

Parents get children back after testifying via Skype


Parents get children back after testifying via Skype | The Age Technology

My Comments

The courts of justice are again being used as a proving ground for today’s Internet-driven technology. This time it is the use of Skype in a child-protection case occurring in the USA concerning immigrant parents who were deported back to Mexico. Here, the US-based court had used Skype as a tool for taking the Mexico-based parents’ testimony due to cost and logistical reasons. Video-conferencing has been used in the courtroom for a lot of cases such as high-profile crime trials where it is desireable to keep a high-risk defendant or “supergrass” confined at a secure jail through the hearing. These setups typically use a direct link between known locations like a courthouse and a major prison, or an expensive-to-hire videoconferencing setup for temporary arrangements.

Of course, the Skype-based solution had facilitated the use of cost-effective equipment that didn’t need intense technical help to set up. This has allowed the parents to prove to the court that they were fit and appropriate parents for the children concerned even though they were limited in funds and based in Mexico.

This case could benefit other civil, family and similar cases in most jurisdictions where a key participant or witness is separated from the main court of hearing by significant distance or ill-health. Typically most of these situations would require an expensive video-conferencing setup which may not be feasible in most rural areas and the setups would require a lot of specialist time to set up and run. Or they would require the lawyers representing both sides of the case to travel out to the witness’s location and make a video recording of their testimony which doesn’t have the immediacy and constant judicial oversight of the live testimony.

Here, a Skype setup on an ordinary 15” or 17” laptop, like most of the laptops reviewed on HomeNetworking01.info, connected via a broadband link can be established by most computer-competent people. These same setups could be transported in the typical briefcase, laptop bag or backpack as cabin luggage on a flight or in the boot (trunk) of a typical car.

One step of progress I would like to see for Skype in the courtroom as a remote-testimony tool is for a similar situation to work with a criminal trial, especially one heard by a judge and jury. In this situation, there would be a requirement to test the case beyond reasonable doubt and these cases may be more exacting than the civil case mentioned above.

Bridging common Internet technology with the courtroom


BBC News – Byte-sized revolution heralds Twitter in Scottish court

My Comments

Over the many hundreds of years, the courts of justice, especially those countries that work to British common law like the UK and Australia, have been overly cautious about the use of recording and reporting technology during the cases brought before them.

Now, a sentencing hearing held in the Scottish High Court has become the first courtroom venue to allow the use of Twitter to permit dissemination of information by observers. The Twitter-based technology would have worked well with remand and sentencing hearings in criminal cases or the conclusion of a case; where there are short exchanges. As well, these hearings, especially the remand hearings may work as a logical bookmark for a court case. On the other hand, “blog-type” reporting, where a regular bulletin is published on a Web page; at the end of each day’s proceedings, could become relevant for long-form civil and criminal cases.

One main concern that the judiciary would have about this is the protection of justice against situations like “trial by media”. It also may be of concern with criminal, family and other cases involving children or other vulnerable people and there is a desire in these cases to limit exposure of these people to pejorative media coverage.

I would suggest that the judiciary investigate the issue of the courtroom and the Internet through various means. This could include integration of questions regarding Web coverage of cases being part of specific cases across the legal fabric; trial-running of specific provisions in particular hearings or cases like what the Scottish High Court had done and even having particular cases of common interest being live-blogged by trusted reporters. As well, lawyers, judges and magistrates who have valuable knowledge or experience concerning the online courtroom should be encouraged to publish their findings as much as possible. The legislative pillar of government should also investigate this topic in case laws have to be revised concerning this practice.

As well, there could be investigation in to secure RSS feeds as a technological measure for the justice system. This is where people have to be authenticated before the can have access to this feed. This could be extended to a courthouse running a case-specific “keep-u-posted” RSS feed service searchable by case number or participant so that people who are part of or are following a case can know what is going.

Once the judiciary investigates the feasibility of the “online courtroom”, they can integrate this pillar of government in to the “e-government” agenda. As well, those who do cover a court case using live-blogging or other online techniques need to keep core principles of justice in their minds.