Sunday, August 31, 2008

And an introduction . . .

I've asked Steve Treible, from our company Intechgration, to do add some posts on Lotus Notes (and whatever other subjects pique his interest) from time to time.

Watch this space for his guest blogs!

The problem with Sharepoint . . .

It's been a few hectic days, so my poor blog has been somewhat neglected. Apologies to anyone that was checking it in the hopes that I'd posted some new amazing insight . . .

A little snippet for today:

In conversation with Chuck Rothman, I learned that MS Sharepoint (which I think we'll all be seeing much more of in the eDiscovery world) copies documents transferred into it, removes the original copy, changes the "date created" AND the "date modified" metadata, thus nicely removing any hope of figuring out when the document actually was created or truly last modified.

A little hiccup to be aware of . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A limit (of sorts) on eDiscovery?

A fascinating little snippet from the good folks at the BBC.

Apparently the next release of IE (that's Internet Explorer for those not up on acronyms) will include a "privacy mode" that will limit the information logged about where you go on the web. I can see that will limit eDiscovery in some lawsuits (assuming companies permit the privacy mode to be turned on) about who went where in cyberspace on company time.

Something I did learn from the article is that both Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox already have a privacy mode! Well, well. I predict a mass conversion from IE to Firefox by corporate end-users who still have such control over their workstations.

(Incidentally, Xerobank's browser seeks to anonymize all browser history).

Monday, August 18, 2008

The ethics of real world data samples

Another interesting thread on the Yahoo litsupport group over the past few days.

Originally this was a thread about near-duping (near-deduplication); the identification of documents, in the broad sense of the word, that are similar to, but not identical to, other documents. (I'll do a post on near-duping some other time).

Someone on this thread posed the perennial problem of eDiscovery vendors and consultants "where do you get your test data from?" This is important to vendors and consultants because in order to truly test any given eDiscovery tool, you really need some "real world data" to run through it. A lot of eDiscovery software companies use the publicly available Enron dataset which has a couple of million emails in it (as I recall); but the problem with everyone using that one dataset is that it's all too easy to tailor your tool to that one, publicly available, data set.

So for vendors and consultants who are going to spend maybe $20,000 on one license for one tool, having some real-world, knarly, unpredictable data is a good thing. The problem is actually getting hold of it.

Back to the litsupport thread . . .

One person on the thread had the creative solution of buying used hard drives off eBay (as job lots), forensically recovering whatever data he could on them (as good a test for forensic tools as any), and then running the resulting data through whatever eDiscovery processing tools he wanted to test.

A creative solution for sure. But is it ethical?

Bil Kellerman argued that no, it was not. You do not have rights to the data, even if you have ownership of the media. And it's doubtful that the original owners of the data intended that the information on that hard drive be used that way. An ethical can of worms.

R. Sam Gilchrist, however, argued that it really wasn't a big deal and that it is no more unethical to use a drive you bought any more than it is unethical or illegal to readpapers you bought. His argument was that a person who sells a drive has any reason to think that the information on the drive is proprietary or private once it is sold.

An interesting conundrum . . .

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fair-weather cycling

Seeing as it's the weekend, I thought I should do a post on biking. For once this summer (which for those of you reading in places other than southern Ontario has been quite soggy) we have a dry, sunny day which is also a Saturday.

(In case you're wondering, Toronto - a mere 50 miles north across the lake - has had the wettest summer on record so far, and it's not over yet! Down here in Fort Erie, we haven't done much better . . .)

So today was BIKING day and we headed off in the early afternoon on our favourite local ride which goes from here to Ridgeway along the Friendship Trail, and then down Ridge Road to Crystal Beach where we usually stop off at the Waterfront Park. Then it's back up to Ridgeway for a fortifying ice-cream, and back home. Total distance - about 25 miles, depending on how much of Crystal Beach we pedal around.

After a few weekends of rides cut short by rain, threat of rain, actual rain, thunderstorms and so on, our 25 mile ride was a little tough on the behinds. But it was worth the pain to get out and pedal!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Laptops at the border

This document has been creating a bit of a flap here in Canada (and elsewhere). It's the official US Customs and Border Protection policy document, explaining the official policies for search of information at the border (read: your laptop, your PDA, your Blackberry, your thumb drive, your CD's . . . well, you get the idea).

Simon Chester blogged about it on Slaw, and there has been some posts on the Yahoo litsupport forum also. Someone there even creatively suggested that you store all your data on a hidden, encrypted partition on your iPod. Personally, I can't think of a better way to raise the ire of a border guard than deliberately hiding the information, but it's wise to be familiar with what the policy actually says. And don't create suspicion in the mind of a border guard unnecessarily by going to great lengths to hide your data.

Shipping it via FedEx is not an option as packages transported by couriers are as subject to inspection as it would be if you were carrying it yourself. That's not common knowledge, but it really should be.

Perhaps the safest route is to leave the data in Canada, and to access it remotely over a secure VPN.

I should add (a day later) that I cross the border almost daily, and have yet to have my laptop or anything else searched. So I don't think we need to worry too much. But it is good to be aware of the actual policies (and perhaps carry a copy with you) for when you are crossing the border with client data.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Artists' Rights for Open Source

An interesting article from the trusty BBC found in tonight's browsing around the web:

Larry Lessig (according to the article) explains that even free licences set conditions on the use of copyrighted work and if you violate those conditions, the licence disappears and you're a plain ol' copyright infringer.

As the most important currency in the open source community is attribution, this is an important ruling.

The economics of efficient legal services

Law firms, with their billable hour model, are understandably reluctant to adopt technologies that could increase their efficiency. An increase in efficiency would mean an associated decrease in billable hours, and thus a decrease in revenue.

But this is an overly simplistic view of efficiency in the law firm that misses the associated decrease in costs associated with an increase in efficiency.

For example: billing clients for routine clerical tasks performed by support staff is either difficult (at best), or simply forbidden by the client. The logic, from a client point of view, is clear. If lawyers are going to charge upwards of $300/hour for their time, it had better include their overhead costs, such as routine clerical tasks performed by support staff. Or even non-routine "clerical" tasks (is the creation of an Affidavit of Documents truly "routine" and "clerical"?)

Therefore, by targeting "overhead" costs for increases in efficiency, lawyers can reduce costs for both themselves, and their clients. And one of the best ways to be efficient is to make smart use of technology.

Using technology to increase your efficiency is not about reducing the profitability of your firm. It's about decreasing your costs and making yourself more competitive - and significant gains can often be achieved with just the software you have already.

Because when it comes to technology, it's not what you use, it's how you use it.

It's time . . .

Over the past couple of years, I've often thought of starting my own blog. After all, I rarely lack for an opinion on anything, and blogs are built for expressing those opinions to an eager (or long-suffering) audience.

So here is my new blog. all about bikes, technology and law and where they intersect (although bicycles aren't known for intersecting too often with the latter two, but I shall do my best to find examples).

More to follow . . .