As the Covid-19 pandemic has forced businesses and municipal services around the country to shift to virtual/remote, the legal profession is no exception. With in-person courts suspended many judges are now conducting hearings remotely via video and teleconferencing. Courts of all levels have permitted legal proceedings to move forward using remote technology, with new methods and techniques being developed rapidly.
This shift opens up a whole can of worms about adequate security, both in terms of who has access and how data is stored; how access rights will be managed or limited in instances that call for heightened confidentiality; whether the platform offers private options for consultations between counsel and their clients during the course of a proceeding; whether and how participants can display documents or other media to other participants; and whether a session or any involved correspondence or display is recorded. Fortunately, the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.) produced an excellent report about virtual justice.
Some issues of major concern regarding virtual justice are:
- Lack of privacy
- Communication between client and counsel
- Unauthorized recording
- Identity verification
- Transmission of sensitive documents
- Ease of use and technology error
- Use of emerging technology
- Digital divide
- Due process
Courts must clearly communicate what technologies they use and how individuals’ personal information will be impacted, empowering participants to hold operators of virtual court accountable for errors and abuses. Also, new technology must ensure that mistakes can be quickly detected and rectified. It is essential that courts go beyond conventional terms of service, ensuring that every person whose privacy is impacted by virtual courts can provide truly informed consent. Falling short of this may very well undermine the integrity of the judiciary itself.
To listen to our interview with S.T.O.P Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn, click here.
Leave a Reply