Information Technology Expert Witness Testimony Partially Allowed in Wi-Fi Privacy Row

Plaintiff filed suit against defendants related to a privacy issue.  Plaintiff hired an Information Technology Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion in part and denied it in part.

Facts:  This case (Jensen v. Cablevision Systems Corporation et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of New York – February 27th, 2019) involves a class action complaint stemming from alleged violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) and New York General Business Law (“GBL”).  The plaintiff alleges that the defendants used the plaintiff’s wireless router to broadcast a public Wi-Fi network without the plaintiff’s authorization.  The plaintiff has hired Information Technology Expert Witness Dr. Jennifer Golbeck to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendants argue that Dr. Golbeck is not qualified to offer expert testimony because her background is in social media and the Internet rather than WiFi privacy issues.  The court opines that Dr. Golbeck’s experience centers around public interactions with the Internet, including privacy implications.  Dr. Golbeck testified that her focus is on usable security and privacy systems.  The court rules that any issues raised on this issue goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility of the testimony.  Thus, the court rules that Dr. Golbeck is qualified to offer her expert report.

The defendants also allege that Dr. Golbeck’s expert report should be excluded because her opinions are not based on reliable methods and she discusses legal issues, motive, intent and state of mind.

The court opines that the only sources cited are internal Cablevision documents and deposition transcripts.  These documents concern internal Cablevision knowledge, decisions, public pronouncements and service terms all regarding the Optimum Public Wi-Fi network.  The court further notes that Dr. Golbeck’s expert report includes an improper rehashing of otherwise admissible evidence and that interpreting admissible evidence without having personal knowledge or experience is not proper.

The court also notes that there are sections of Dr. Golbeck’s report that includes speculation regarding the meaning of certain internal documents as well as conjecture as to the company’s intentions and that she has no personal knowledge regarding any of this information and is only presented to the fact finder for the purpose of repeating the plaintiff’s factual knowledge.

The defendants argue that the methodology used by Dr. Golbeck in reaching her opinions was unsound.  the court opines that these challenges have not demonstrated that Dr. Golbeck’s methodology was so flawed as to make her analysis unreliable.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Jennifer Golbeck is granted in part and denied in part