Big Brother Really Is Watching You

The latest high-tech crime fighting tool for the La Crosse, Wisconsin police department is Facebook according to the “La Crosse Tribune.” The department recently used pictures from Facebook to charge students from the University of  Wisconsin — La Crosse aged 19 and 20 for underage drinking.  I guess La Crosse is a quiet town without a lot of serious crime so the police have lots of time to go looking for trouble.  Tax authorities in the U.S. and Belgium have also used Facebook in their investigations.  Just more proof that what you do online does matter.

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Don’t Sue! Blog? Well, Talk It Out At Least

Here’s some more information on the iPod lawsuit from the “In the eyes of the law” blog by attorney Kimberly Houser.  The question phrased by Ms. Houser is whether “blogging is better than going to court?”  I don’t know about that.  Certainly, that may the best approach for small slights or questionable business practices.

There have been a number of  instances where I did my best for a client by keeping them out of court.  A classic example of this was the engineering client who was wronged by a major national home builder.  The client was ready to sue, but my initial question was whether the client  wanted to keep or lose their relationship with this major company.  Of course, the client wanted to keep it and we adjusted our approach accordingly.  The end result was the major company admitted the error of its ways and continued to do business with the client.  That’s a result that I can take pride in.  However, there are other times where the client wants “just a letter” or where they want to negotiate, but my experience tells me that it will clearly be a waste of time.  In those cases, time and money can actually be saved by just getting down to the inevitable.

It Is Called The Volume Control, Stupid!

The Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is often described as the most liberal Federal appeals court in all the land.  Thus, it would normally be considered pro-plaintiff in most cases.  Nevertheless, Engadget reports that it recently upheld the ruling of a lower court dismissing a class action suit against Apple for iPod related hearing losses.  Perhaps the class representatives weren’t aware that iPods do come with adjustable volume settings.  I’m not sure that my son is aware of that.  It is always a bad sign if the ear buds are in and you can still tell what someone is listening to.

Death Is Sure But Maybe Not The Taxes

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 substantially revised the estate, gift, and generation skipping taxes.  One provision was that the estate tax and generation skipping tax would disappear in 2010.  If nothing is done before 2011, the estate and generation skipping taxes go back to where they were before 2001; i.e., a lower exemption and higher rate.  I’ve always maintained that this compromise was at least in part a bet by the Democrats that they would be in control of Congress before 2010 so they could rewrite the tax as they preferred.  A bet that they won.  No one expected the tax to actually lapse in 2010.  However, health care reform has apparently distracted Congress and so no new estate tax bill has been passed.  Consequently, if you’re one of the 5,500 Americans to whom the estate tax might have applied, 2010 is a good year to die.  In fact, according to “The Wall Street Journal” some very ill wealthy Americans have been trying to hang on until January 1, 2010.  Theoretically, Congress could try to pass a law during 2010 making the tax retroactive to 2010, but that may not pass constitutional muster.

Forgotten But Not Gone — Digital Evidence Is Hard To Lose

If you’re tempted to hide evidence, don’t do it, especially if that evidence is digital.  Even before the prevalence of digital evidence chances were that you’d be discovered.  Multiple copies are often floating around, especially with medical records.  Details are often missed that show a document is missing or altered.  Not only is it likely to fail, but when you’re discovered you’ll be in an even worse position.  There will be no doubt that you’re a liar and everything you say will be tainted.

This story from “The Globe and Mail” details just how futile it is to try to hide digital evidence.  When you “delete” a file, you’re really only deleting the reference to it in a database, but the data referenced is still on the hard drive.  It is forgotten but not gone.  Forensic software can read that data.  Trying to cover your tracks by overwriting the hard drive just shows that you’re trying to hide something.