A short while ago I told lawyers that we had to stop using gmail. I said that because Google is allowing its contractors to read through users’ messages for the purpose of software improvement. According to a 2008 ethics opinion out of New York, that meant that lawyers no longer had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the gmail system.The same problem now applies to Amazon Alexa.
Recently Bloomberg reported that Amazon is recording some peoples’ use of Alexa-powered devices and it’s providing those recordings to employees and contractors. Those personnel are then reviewing the recordings for the purposes of improving the algorithms and correcting software errors. But if lawyers are now aware that human beings are listening to recordings from these devices, then it follows that we no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the product.
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I’ve been quite happy with an important recent change in the legal profession— we’re finally talking seriously about mental health. More specifically, we’re taking about getting help for our mental health issues.
Of course, while the powers-that-be have been advocating that discussion for a (short) while, the lawyers on the ground have been more reluctant to engage. The reason is clear— stigma and repercussions. Lawyers don’t want their colleagues or clients to know that they are struggling because they’re afraid it will affect how they appear to those people. Lawyers obviously also don’t want to suffer any setback to their career. As a result, there’s been a de facto disincentive for lawyers to come forward and get help. It appears, however, that that’s changing.
The Wall Street Journal reports that firms are “offering on-site psychologists, training staff to spot problems and incorporating mental-health support alongside other wellness initiatives.” That’s the type of action we need. I’ve long said in my CLE programs that we need to create an environment where people feel comfortable about getting help. Hopefully the firms’ actions set forth in that article are the front end of a growing trend.