Shrewd Mobile Communication for Lawyers

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Today, our lives are literally and figuratively on our phones. The Apple App store’s banning of Facebook for egregious privacy violations and Jeff Bezos’s (self-published) ransom letter for intimate information extracted from his phone are two of the most recent reminders that no one is safe from data privacy risks.

Today’s legal practice is 24/7 and it’s hard for a smartphone to not be an integral part of a lawyer’s job. Still, privacy breaches pose a particular risk for lawyers. In addition to personal consequences, breaches can also risk a lawyer’s livelihood and professional reputation.

For now, companies are left to self-regulation and enforcement of privacy practices. While we wait, along with industry leaders and cybersecurity experts for policy-makers to pass legislation to more thoroughly address privacy regulations, here are some simple, “low hanging fruit” privacy safeguards you can take right now against some of the most routine risks. Typical lawyer disclaimer- this list this is by no means comprehensive.

1. Just say ‘no’


Obviously, this is harder in practice than perception. The best way to protect yourself from programs like Facebook’s Research app (and Facebook’s general app) is to, well, not download them. it’s common knowledge that Facebook already collects and shares personal data from users without offering so much as a shiny nickel. So, if an app is turning up the heat by incentivizing you with $20/month, be very afraid!  Besides, there are much less invasive ways to make a quick $20, like selling your blood plasma.

2. Avoid apps that aren’t available in official app stores.

Not a fan of the D.A.R.E. approach when it comes to phone apps? Then it’s important to at least exercise discretion when choosing who to grant access to your personal information. Services like Google Play and the Apple App Store, while not impermeable, enforce standards and requirements that help prevent malware from compromising your data. If an app is not available on official platforms like these, then it’s a good sign that something shady is afoot. Also, it’s probably just a good general rule to avoid anything with a name like Gooligan.

3. Pay attention to how your kids play with your phone


Is getting to play on mom or dad’s phone a special treat for your normally screen restricted kid (or a desperate measure to prevent meltdowns in restaurants or on airplanes)?  One of the most alarming aspects of Facebook’s Research app is its marketing towards children. Users as young as 13 were encouraged to download the app with a $20 monthly reward (which is basically $100 to a 13-year-old). While Facebook required minors to obtain consent from their parents, it’s unclear whether teens found a way to bypass this requirement and many apps marketed towards children in the past have benefited from parents not being able to actively monitor all of their child user’s clicks. So lawyer parents, take care with what and how much your kids can access and download on your phone—or look for an alternative screen to share (that doesn’t contain your work emails and communications).

4. Put your most confidential (or private) communications over apps where content self-destructs


Whether you’re a lawyer working on a high profile case who is at risk of blackmail or you want extra safeguards for private or confidential communications. Consider an app where the message self-destructs, most do not allow for screenshots or send you an alert if the recipient attempts to take a screenshot. Check out Confide or  Stealth Chat (available in both the Apple App and Google Play stores) for secure, encrypted, self-destructing message options.  Bonus: fewer old messages to sort through and to delete when you start to run out of storage space.

And of course, at Hire an Esquire we’re doing our part to keep you safe with an active login/authentication system that implements industry-standard best practices, a site secured under a TLS certificate, and active security against cyber attacks.

Your move, Zuckerberg.