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Legal Update - March 2018 Newsletter

Yogi Patel - Thursday, March 01, 2018

Dear valued clients and supporters: This month's newsletter will cover 1) Updates to the New York Earned Sick Time Act and 2) A recent Court of Appeals decision on Facebook privacy in the context of litigation.

New York Earned Sick Time Act

Effective May 5, 2018, employees will be entitled to use their paid time off already guaranteed under the current New York Earned Sick Time Act ("NYESTA") when they or a family member is the victim of a family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking. The amendments to the NYESTA does not award additional time off - it only expands the reasons for which it can be used. These new entitlements, called "Safe time," include taking time off to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other shelter service; to participate in safety planning, relocation, or other actions required to ensure the safety of the victim; to meet with an attorney in connection with a family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking; to file a complaint with law enforcement; to enroll children in a new school; or to take other actions that may be necessary to address the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or family member. Additionally, the definition of "Family Member" will also be expanded to include any individual related by blood and any individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. Finally, the short name of the law will be updated to the "Earned Safe and Sick Time Act." Overall, these changes affect nearly all employees in New York City and employers will need to incorporate them into their current policies and procedures.


Facebook Privacy and Litigation

The New York Court of Appeals recently addressed the issue of how much of an individual's Facebook page must be shared with the opposing party in a lawsuit. In Forman v. Henkin, the plaintiff brought a personal injury suit when she suffered serious injuries after falling off a horse owned by the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that her injuries greatly impacted her daily life, which she used to document regularly on her Facebook page, but not longer could because of her injuries. During discovery, the defendant demanded access to the plaintiff's Facebook account, alleging that it would contain pictures and other information relevant to the plaintiff's claims. The plaintiff argued that her account was private and should not be discoverable. New York's highest court in this decision held that courts should require the disclosure of information that is likely to be found on a particular Facebook page that is material and relevant to the claims and injuries at issue in a given case. The Court expressly found that the privacy settings of a Facebook page do not impact this analysis because otherwise an individual could simply set her page to private to avoid discovery. Ultimately, the Court essentially applied traditional principles of discovery in holding that courts should balance requiring the disclosure of that which is necessary with preventing the disclosure of non-relevant materials.

In sum, Facebook users should be warned that regardless of their privacy settings, pictures and other information contained on their pages is discoverable if it is material and necessary to a lawsuit.

Readers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@lloydpatelllp) and Facebook to receive updates on these and other issues throughout the month.

 


Apple vs. FBI – Technology and the New Legal Frontier

Yogi Patel - Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Mobile devices in general have arguably taken over as the main portal through which significant portions of people in our society communicate. And with the advancement of technology, the mobile device is now and will continue to become, the main portal through which we engage in every day transactions. We can now use our phones to engage in banking, ordering groceries, booking vacations, researching novel questions, storing our personal information and to do just about anything else we want. The amount of data that can be derived from our mobile devices can reveal just about every aspect of our day-to-day lives. From the websites we visit, to the phrases we search. Our phones, for better or worse, can probably reveal more about us than we could if we tried to provide our own narrative. Think about how naked and vulnerable you felt the last time you left home without your phone. For most of us, it has become a necessity. We truly cannot imagine life without our mobile devices – and this is not going to change anytime soon. We will undoubtedly continue to use our mobile devices to share even more personal information about ourselves. And with this in mind, consider the dispute between Apple and the FBI –which is ultimately between privacy and safety.

The iPhone is known for its nearly impenetrable security features and thus, is one of the many reasons that Apple’s products are considered superior to others in the market place. The latest challenge to privacy comes in the form of the unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI has been unable to unlock and access the device and is now relying on the courts to compel Apple to do so. Apple is not complying because it fears future implications of the government’s ability to access their devices.

While the FBI has only requested that Apple help the government access the gunmen’s iPhone, the broader implications of the request are the true cause of conflict and concern here. The government is essentially asking for Apple to create an encryption system that would provide them access to any Apple device after securing a warrant. The Government’s position appears to be carefully considered and narrowly tailored. Many experts consider this case as the “perfect case” for litigating the issue of privacy concerns against the governments need to access incriminating information in the evolving world where technology controls access. Since the case involves terrorism, the government’s interest in encroaching on privacy concerns is less likely to cause a public outcry and provides sufficient justification for the court’s to reach a decision allowing it to gain access to an encrypted system.

Besides the privacy vs. security considerations implicated here, this case also raises the issue of how far the government can go in requiring a business to perform functions that have no financial value to the Company. In this case, the FBI wants Apple to develop a new version of the iPhone operating system, whereby the new versions would allow the government to bypass the security features on its product. The sole purpose of this software would be to allow the government to have access to the data on such phones when appropriate. Apple’s shareholders do not stand to gain financially by cooperating with the government. In fact, developing this software would arguably weaken Apple’s overall security system and potentially have a negative impact on its market-share and subsequently the value of the Company to its shareholders.

The implication of this dispute also extends to how other privileges could be potentially compromised. Given that smartphones such as the iPhone store so much personal data, it is important to note that if the government were given such access, they would ultimately be able to access emails, photos, and text messages. This access would present challenges to right of privacy amongst privileged relationships. For example, confidential communications between attorney and client, marital communications amongst spouses and patient-psychotherapist relationship may be easily penetrable.

Other technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Dell understand the implications of this dispute as well. Most have pledged support for Apple and are expected to submit Amicus positions in the pending litigation. These companies also fear that the government will make similar requests thus compromising their security and intellectual property.

 

This Article was co-authored by Asima Chaudhary, an intern at Lloyd Patel LLP and a second year law student at the City University of New York Law School.

 


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