A growing number of cases around the world have used WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app, as evidence in court. In 2011, a Canary Islands court “ratified a sentence for libel based in part on a WhatsApp conversation”. In 2013, four girls in Spain had to pay hundreds of euros for threatening another girl who joined their chat on WhatsApp. That same year, a man was given a near-2 year jail sentence for sending thousands of WhatsApp messages to his ex-partner. In February of this year, “the Supreme Court accepted as evidence in a drugs-smuggling case WhatsApp conversations between the accused.” While that seems harmless, two programmers, Jaime Sanchez and Pablo San Emeterio, who specialize in cybersecurity have hacked WhatsApp. They are able to create a fake number and send messages to any mobile phone. They can also change the sender of the message before it reaches the intended recipient. Jaime and Pablo have also figured out how to eavesdrop on conversations. Sanchez says that they “earn a living by looking for weaknesses that might be used by criminals against the security of private individuals or businesses.” They have been working with WhatsApp for a few years and the company has patched up several of these issues with “varying degrees of success”. However, they have not found a way to fix the latest threat, “modifying the name of the sender of a message”. San Emertio says this could impact all sorts of situations, from daily messaging to issues related with divorce or blackmail.
“Lawyers, expert witnesses and cybersecurity specialists all agree that messaging services need to accept their responsibility in all this.” It can’t be long before others find a way to replicate this hack. Our legal system must not be too quick to accept newer technology because we don’t yet know all of its weaknesses.
Name: R. Thomas Berner
Company: Pennsylvania State University
Location: Bellefonte, PA
Expert witness profile information provided by Mr. Berner:
R. Thomas Berner has been a journalism expert since 1986. Since then, he has been involved in 12 defamation or copyright cases in state and federal court. Mr. Berner is a professor emeritus of journalism and American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. He has also written several textbooks on language skills, writing, and editing. Mr. Berner will testify to the general standards of care in journalism and the role of reporters and editors in the reporting and publication process.
Be sure to check out Mr. Berner’s expert profile for more information:
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On Tuesday, the NCAA’s ban on compensating student-athletes came under question for the second day in federal court. The class action lawsuit claims that the NCAA is violating antitrust laws by forbidding that Division I football and basketball players get paid anything beyond their awarded scholarships. Chief U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is overseeing the case that “centers on whether such athletes should be allowed to share in profits from the lucrative college sports revenue stream, such as from merchandise and particularly from television rights.” The NCAA’s argument rests on the belief that allowing student-athletes to share in that profit with ruin the system and negate education in college sports.
An economics expert witness, Roger Noll, from Stanford University testified for the college athletes saying the policy violates federal antitrust laws. He said “athletes are illegally being deprived of the right to share in the multibillion-dollar college sports bounty.” The attorney for the NCAA said that student-athletes get to enjoy the “notoriety of college sports”; however, Noll responded by saying that “they like everything that goes with [playing sports]… that doesn’t mean they aren’t being exploited.”
On Thursday, May 29th, the Arizona Supreme Court approved “cold” testimony from experts. This means that “juries are entitled to hear from an expert witness on a particular type of crime even if that [expert] knows nothing about the specific victims in the case”. This marks the first time that Arizona will allow expert witnesses to opine on a case and give their views of general principles without knowing exact facts about the case.
The Arizona Supreme Court, on Thursday, also refused to overturn Martin Salazar-Mercado’s convictions on multiple counts of child abuse. Martin was indicted in 2011 on charges of child molestation and during his trial, his attorney stopped a forensic interviewer from testifying about child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. The idea was to try and explain the mental state and behavior of a child who has been abused; this includes “delayed reporting of the abuse to a relative, trouble pinpointed when events occurred, and even one victim changing her version of events between the time of reporting and trial.” Although the experts do not have specific details on the case, their testimony can help the jury better understand the evidence and, in this case, could have “helped the jury to understand possible reasons for the delayed and inconsistent reporting”. However, it is important to note that the expert is limited to general principles of behavioral or social science and it may not apply to all cases. The judge will need to play “gatekeeper” and decide whether the expert’s testimony may be admissible.
Company: Ueltzen & Company, LLP
Location: Sacramento, CA
Specialty: Forensic Accounting
Expert witness profile information provided by Ms. Fraser:
Jolene is a Principal in the firm’s forensic accounting practice and is a CPA with 17 years of public accounting and consulting services experience. She specializes in Forensic Accounting including professional standards litigation consulting, special investigations, fraud investigations and economic damages in commercial civil litigation matters. She has provided a variety of services including complex financial accounting analysis, compliance analysis and audit and reporting services. Jolene’s background includes managing audits of clients across multiple industries such as commercial and residential real estate, non-profit organizations, manufacturing and distribution, high technology, publishing and employee benefit plans.
Jolene holds a Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) credential from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as well as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Accountancy. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), California Society of Certified Public Accountants (CalCPA) and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).