Smartphone Law Report™ seeks to chronicle the emerging law and law-related issues dealing with the ubiquitous smartphone and the ever-increasing role it is playing in our lives. Editor: Robert S. Want (rwant@Smartphone-Law.com). Copyright © 2017 WANT Publishing Co.
WANT Publishing’s other services include NationsCourts.com (a comprehensive reference dealing with the nation’s federal, state and county courts; LegalEditor.com (offering proofreading and editing services); and Legal-Research.com (offering research and writing services).
December 6, 2017
Tech Executives Favor Limiting Smartphone Use
Typical smartphone users now check their smartphone 47 times a day, with those in the 18-24 age bracket checking 86 times a day.
Even the tech elite, many of whom played a major role in smartphone and associated app development, are beginning to show concern about this surge in usage. Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker said recently when discussing the social network, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” He said the Facebook platform was designed to consume as much of the users’ time and attention as possible.
Bill Gates and his wife Melinda set limits on their three children’s screen time and didn’t allow them to get a smartphone until they were 14. Steve Jobs likewise set limits for his children.
The tech elite who school their children in Silicon Valley seem to prefer low-tech schools where their children learn creativity, not coding. (Android Authority)
November 29, 2017
Justices Debate Extent of Digital Privacy
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments on the extent to which prosecutors could gain access to cell phone records without first obtaining a search warrant.
During the oral arguments, a majority of the justices seemed troubled by the government’s ability to acquire troves of digital data without a warrant.
The case concerns Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of participating in a series of robberies, based in part on records provided by his cellular carrier showing his movements over several months. The lawyer for Mr. Carpenter argues that prosecutors violated the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches, by failing to get a warrant for the information.
A ruling in Mr. Carpenter’s favor could revise a fundamental Fourth Amendment principle: that people have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they voluntarily turn over information to a third party, like a phone company. (USAToday)
November 15, 2017
Judge Raises Bar for Police Cellphone Tracking
A Brooklyn NY state judge has ruled that the police need an eavesdropping warrant to covertly track the cellphones of criminal suspects, raising the bar in New York for the use of a surveillance device that is facing challenges across the United States.
The judge said the New York Police Department had improperly homed in on an attempted murder suspect last year by intercepting the suspect’s cellphone signals without a warrant based on probable cause that he committed a crime.
The ruling could complicate an untold number of ongoing investigations in New York that have relied on the tracking device, known as a cell-site simulator, and adds to the mounting pushback from judges and elected officials against its unfettered use. (New York Times)
November 14, 2017
Teen Suicide May Be Linked to Social Media
An increase in suicide rates among US teenagers has occurred as use of social media has surged, and a new study suggests there may be a link.
The study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, says that suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after declining for almost two decades.
Why the rates went up isn’t known, but the study suggests that one factor could be rising social media use. Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying; and social media posts depicting “perfect” lives may be taking a toll on teens’ mental health, the study said.
The study found that suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day online. Still, causation is not clear, as those more prone to thoughts of suicide may spend more time on social media. (Washington Post)
October 25, 2017
Honolulu First City to Ban Walking While Texting
If you cross the street in Honolulu while texting or even looking at your smartphone, it could be costly.
As of today, a local ordinance goes into effect that reads “ No person shall cross a street or highway while viewing a mobile electronic device.” This supplements a local ordinance that bans the operation of a motor vehicle while using a mobile device.
Those making emergency calls are exempt from the ban, fines for which are up to $35 for the first offense, $75 for the second and $99 for the third.
Honolulu is the first major city to enact such a ban, though similar measures are pending elsewhere.
Reflecting a growing awareness of the problem, the National Safety Council has added “distracted walking” to its annual compilation of the biggest risks for unintentional injuries and deaths. (Fortune)
October 23, 2017
New Trial in Long-Running Apple-Samsung Litigation
The Apple-Samsung litigation over smartphone design covers goes on…and on. After nearly seven years and a trip to the U.S Supreme Court and back, a federal judge has ordered a new trial to determine how much Samsung should pay Apple in their patent dispute over cover designs.
The order, handed down by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, comes after the Supreme Court set aside a $400 million jury award against Samsung in one of the most closely watched patent cases in modern history. In remanding the case, the Supreme Court said the specific aspects of patent infringement must be identified and then the total profit from those specific infringements must be calculated in order to determine an award for damages.
Judge Koh believes the court must now decide whether Samsung infringed the entire iPhone design with its own line of smartphones or whether it only infringed components of the design. (Courthouse News Service)
September 29, 2017
New Distracted Driving Law in Oregon
While it’s long been illegal in Oregon to talk or text behind the wheel without using a hands-free device, a new law that has just gone into effect forbids driving while holding any electronic device.
Fines can go as high as $2,500 and six months in jail for repeat offenders. For a first-time offense that doesn’t result in a traffic accident, a judge can suspend the fine if the driver completes a distracted driving avoidance class.
The new law still allows drivers 18 and older to make a phone call or use other functions of their phone if they use a hands-free device.
Advocates of the new law noted that after a decade of decline, traffic fatalities in Oregon spiked over the past few years. (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
September 13, 2017
Lawsuit Challenges U.S. Border Searches of Phones
A group whose smartphones and laptops were searched at U.S. airports and at the border has filed suit in federal court, claiming a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.
The Department of Homeland Security, whose agents conducted the searches, says its actions are authorized by the same laws that allow border agents to look through suitcases without a judge’s approval.
But privacy activists say the laws, which were crafted with luggage in mind, shouldn’t apply to digital devices that contain vast amounts of personal data related to the device owners and others they have contacted.
Current border control policy allows agents to conduct digital searches “with or without individualized suspicion.” (New York Times)
August 16, 2017
Settlement in Robocall Litigation
A Chicago federal judge has approved a settlement that forces Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines to provide compensation to people who received pre-recorded telemarketing calls that promoted the cruise lines.
These calls allegedly violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, because the marketing company contracted to initiate the calls didn’t have people’s permission to contact them.
Those who received these pre-recorded calls could get up to $300 per call (up to $900 per phone number). The calls went out between July 23, 2009, and March 8, 2014. (Time.com)
August 5, 2017
Kim Kardashian Company Sued Over Smartphone Cases
A patent infringement suit has been filed against a company owned by Kim Kardashian, alleging she endorsed a phone selfie case that infringes on a U.S. patent.
The complaint alleges that Kardashian promotes LuMee-branded selfie cases, an add-on for smartphones that helps provide bright and balanced lighting of subjects being captured by a smartphone camera.
The LuMee cases are distributed by large retailers like Urban Outfitters.(IP Watchdog)