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Off the Beaten Path: Chess Cheats, OOPs no more, and Have You Seen OMG in the OED?

Posted by rjbiii on March 26, 2011

Would You Like to Play a Game?

Everyday we see how technology is used to better our lives. It allows us to do things we couldn’t do in the past. It helps us overcome our limitations. We’ve also seen how folks use it to game the system to their own advantage. Another example of the latter has surfaced in France, where three chess players were caught trying to…game the game:

The French chess federation has suspended three top players for violating sporting ethics at a chess olympiad in Siberia last September.

The trio are alleged to have used an elaborate scheme involving text messages and computer software to help beat opponents at Khanty-Mansiysk

How did the scheme work? Like so:

According to the French federation, while international grand master Sebastien Feller, 19, was involved in a game, Cyril Marzolo followed developments over the internet and used computer software to establish the best next move. The answer was then sent by means of a coded text message to the third member of the team, Arnaud Hauchard.

The third member would then sit himself at a particular table in the competition hall. Each table represented an agreed square on the chess board. This, according to French media reports, was the most delicate part of the operation.

Not sure how that third part worked. How one would do that without drawing attention to oneself is beyond me. All three players deny the accusation.

Carnegie Mellon Changes its CS Program

An interesting change at Carnegie Mellon is occurring. The school is eliminating OOP entirely from its basic curriculum, as stated by one of the CS Professors in his blog, Existential Type:

Object-oriented programming is eliminated entirely from the introductory curriculum, because it is both anti-modular and anti-parallel by its very nature, and hence unsuitable for a modern CS curriculum. A proposed new course on object-oriented design methodology will be offered at the sophomore level for those students who wish to study this topic.

A report from the Department’s Dean provides the following rationale:

The School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University is planning major revisions to its introductory course sequence in ways that will affect not just our own students, but also the many students from across campus who take computer science courses. Major changes include: 1) revising our introductory courses to promote the principles of computational thinking, for both majors and nonmajors, 2) increasing our emphasis on the need to make software systems highly reliable and the means to achieve this, and 3) preparing students for a future in which programs will achieve high performance by exploiting parallel execution.

I remember when object oriented programming was the cool kid on the block. Oy vey.

So can I use OMG in Scrabble?

So the OED is now adding acronyms esuch as OMG, LOL, and IMHO to the official lexicon:

OMG! The exclamatory online abbreviation has won the approval of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The term — short for “Oh my God” or “Oh my gosh” — is one of dozens of new entries in the authoritative reference book’s latest online update.

….

Editors publish updates to the online Oxford every three months. The Internet version of the dictionary, which launched in 2000, gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers and may eventually replace the mammoth 20-volume printed Oxford English Dictionary, last published in 1989.

By the time the lexicographers finish revising and updating a new edition — a gargantuan task that will take a decade or more — publishers doubt there will be a market for the printed form.

I think my old-school English teachers are probably wondering WTH.

Firefox 4 Essentials

Firefox 4 recently made its debut, to great fanfare. One pre-release article gave us 10 Things to Drool over in FF4.

One of my favorite websites, Web Worker Daily, has posted its list of 11 essential add-ons.

Eye in the Sky…or Ear that’s always Near

Finally, a disturbing report from Germany provides a glimpse into the data collected by telecoms. From the article:

But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.

The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin.

“We are all walking around with little tags, and our tag has a phone number associated with it, who we called and what we do with the phone,” said Sarah E. Williams, an expert on graphic information at Columbia University’s architecture school. “We don’t even know we are giving up that data.”

The fabled “expectation of privacy” is getting narrowing all the time.

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Off the Beaten Path (Weekend musings, March 12, 2011):

Posted by rjbiii on March 13, 2011

Data is Beautiful

Flowing Data posts a its review of the latest book in the Beautiful Data series. From the article:

While visualization can get very technical, the authors do a good job of keeping things abstract enough so that you know what they’re talking about even if you’re not particularly experienced in the field. They provide enough detail though that it’s still interesting for others.

A lot of people who are interested in visualization think that’s it’s a matter of learning a bunch of tools, but there’s a lot more to it than that. You’re also learning about data, and learning what questions to ask, and if you don’t know what questions to ask, you just end up with visualization that doesn’t really mean anything. Design also plays a role in in conveying the message you want. So it’s great that there’s a resource that can help you get into the experts’ heads.

If anything, it’s just fun to read about the process of how a graphic or tool gets made. For example, Jonathan Feinberg, who designed the ever popular Wordle, explains what went into the work. Some people like to knock it, but he knows plenty well that the stylized word clouds aren’t the best way to visualize data or extract information, or whatever.

Dude…where’s my car?

You may have seen the news that UCSD researchers had engaged in experiments to take control of your car’s computer using various methods, including this one:

But their most interesting attack focused on the car stereo. By adding extra code to a digital music file, they were able to turn a song burned to CD into a Trojan horse. When played on the car’s stereo, this song could alter the firmware of the car’s stereo system, giving attackers an entry point to change other components on the car. This type of attack could be spread on file-sharing networks without arousing suspicion, they believe. “It’s hard to think of something more innocuous than a song,” said Stefan Savage, a professor at the University of California.

Tagging without permission is…permissible Facebook

Evan Brown, the lawyer behind the blog Internet Cases, posts a summary of the issue of “tagging” information on Facebook. From the article:

The court rejected the mother’s assertion that the photos should not be considered as evidence. She argued that because Facebook allows anyone to post pictures and then “tag” or identify the people in the pictures, she never gave permission for the photographs to be published in this manner. The court held that “[t]here is nothing within the law that requires [one’s] permission when someone takes a picture and posts it on a Facebook page. There is nothing that requires [one’s] permission when she [is] “tagged” or identified as a person in those pictures.”

Linking to Trouble

Well, I’m glad Homeland Security is on top of things like this. I feel much safer now.

In a case against a New York website owner, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is claiming that merely linking to copyrighted material is a crime.

DHS, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seized Brian McCarthy’s domain, channelsurfing.net, in late January. The site has now been replaced with a government warning: “This domain has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge, New York Office.”

“It is unlawful to reproduce copyrighted material, such as movies, music, software or games, without authorization… First-time offenders convicted of a criminal felony copyright law will face up to five years in federal prison, restitution, forfeiture and fine.”

The advocacy group Demand Progress has claimed that McCarthy never reproduced copyrighted material, and that his website simply linked to other sites.

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Around the block-March 8, 2011: Notes on Facebook and Predictive Coding

Posted by rjbiii on March 8, 2011

A few articles of note that affect electronic discovery, forensics, or cyber-security:

Predictive coding has been a hot topic, and at Prism Legal, Ron Friedman posts his thoughts on how it should be handled by courts:

[Courts] should presume that predictive coding is reliable. The burden of proof should shift to predictive coding opponents to show that it is not reliable.” Let the proponents of human review explain to the court why diverging expert views is better than consistent computers.

Agreed. “Relevance” is ultimately determined by the court. In “human review,” a lead attorney formulates a set of guidelines for document reviewers to follow. This formulation is based on his understanding of the case subject matter, the scope of discovery requests or other communications by the opposing party, and any direction he might receive from the court. The attorney’s understanding of relevance is, in theory, based on an honest attempt to obtain an understanding of the court’s definition of “relevance” for the instant matter. The guidelines then sent down to those attorneys reviewing documents is an attempt to accurately propagate this understanding. Obtaining consistency (and of course, accuracy, to the extent that term can be used here) between reviewers is a difficult (and often, costly) process requiring diligence and proper project management.

The larger the review team, the greater the challenge. Predictive coding offers the promise of greater consistency. To test its validity, however, the components that might be scrutinized are: the efficacy of the technology used, any “rules” created that affect the tool’s method of classification, and the methodologies behind any creating “sample” datasets used to “train” the tool on what is relevant and what is not.

EDiscovery map offers a primer in how to collect from EU-based data sources.

There is a serious conflict for US firms with affiliates in EEA countries, when they get involved in civil litigation within the US: On the one hand, Federal and State rules mandate retention and production of all relevant data, even data located outside of the US, with the risk of severe penalties by the Courts in case of “spoliation”, and on the other hand, EU data protection laws (applicable to the EEA) mandate very strict data protection rules for “personal data” of their residents, that seriously restricts processing of personal data and transfer of those data to “non-adequate” countries outside of the EEA, with risks of steep fines in case of transgression.

Continuing on, we’ve argued about this before, but the ABA posts an article explaining why e-discovery is killing legal jobs. Not that I agree with the assessment.

The ACEDS staff takes on the subject of EDD and social media:

One of the important issues involved in social networking evidence is admissibility. The Federal Rules of Evidence require evidence to be authenticated before it can be admitted in court. With nearly everyone having the power to create accounts and claim to be someone else, how can one prove the true identity of a username in court?

To help establish authenticity of information gathered from social media sites and intended for use as evidence, testimony from the person who obtains printed screenshots from the social networking web page should be documented, along with details of how and when the pages were accessed and printed.

I agree with this…but I’m not sure how authentication of social media content differs from that associated with the collection of any other website. On the same topic, we now read of Facebook’s “self-collection” tool, which the company has provided its users:

Now, 500 million users of the most popular social network on the planet (which includes not just individuals, but organizations as well) have a mechanism to “self-collect” their data for their own use and safekeeping. Or, they can “self-collect” for use in litigation. In his article, Craig [Ball] likens Facebook’s download function to Staples’ famous easy button. How can an attorney argue an overly burdensome collection when you simply have to click a button?

Discovery requests for Facebook-related data may become ever more prevalent, if you believe Andre Yee when he says that Facebook is the new internet.

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E-Discovery hits the Mainstream

Posted by rjbiii on March 6, 2011

The New York Times “discovers” E-Discovery

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen the NYT article on e-discovery, and how use of EDD apps is replacing “armies of expensive lawyers.” What was different about this article is not that it looked at the promise of better technology, or that it discussed savings in the discovery phase because of new software, but rather that it used the fact that by better using the new technologies, some attorneys were out of a job. So, the article used e-discovery as a microcosm for the national economy, comparing document reviewer job losses to losses by workers in other fields. The Times refers to a process of “hollowing out” the American economy. While that is interesting, I don’t find the comparison particularly accurate.

I admit that a cottage industry in document review has formed, driven by the obligations imposed by our legal system. The growth of the legal document review industry has accelerated, driven by new technologies and the embrace of “ESI” as relevant objects of examination by the courts and lawmakers. But practicing law, at least at its core, has very little to do with the process of finding and culling most of the documents found in data-sets on a company’s IT infrastructure. Admittedly, the action of classifying a document or file by a reviewer “responsive,” “privileged,” or “not relevant” does involve using judgement, and that judgment must be informed by the legal context in which the review operates. Furthermore, the protocol used to “conduct a reasonable inquiry” into the existence and location of relevant documents must certainly be executed under the management of an engaged and knowledgeable attorney. E-discovery is, in my opinion, a legal project, and not one for IT.

That said, we are currently in a place where e-discovery legal expenses are disproportional to those expenses associated with the rest of the matter. Ultimately, lawyers do not go to law school and into their profession to read and classify computer files. They are not librarians or IG specialists. Most don’t want to be. So, the replacement of “armies of expensive lawyers” made possible by e-discovery technology is something of a “restorative” medicine to the legal process. It should also be noted that technology also was a catalyst for the growth of much of this industry in the first place. Far from “hollowing out” skilled jobs, technology behind search and retrieval, data storage, and digitization of “hard copy” information actually led to the explosive increase of jobs in certain fields.

The trend with respect to document review, of course, will continue. Automated classification systems are being tested and, often are touted as being more accurate than “human review.” Much must first be worked out, with respect to acceptance of automated “decisions” with respect to classification methodologies, and even once implemented, some human (attorney) judgment will still be needed. But the days of huge teams of lawyers reviewing data for extensive time periods is numbered. My argument, therefore, is simply that in replacing staff who are eyeballing huge volumes of documents with an eye toward classification for relevancy, technology is not replacing lawyers who are actually practicing law (all legal definitions of that term aside), but will simply allow for the practice of law without the distractions that currently exist. At least it will, once the promise of that technology has been fully realized.

Lexician Piggy-backs on Times Article to Push Legal Project Management

Lexician uses the NYT article as a foundation to emphasis the need for increasing efficiency in E-Discovery matters, specifically by better managing them. From the post:

The NY Times is sending a message that efficiency is now part of the baseline set of “features” in choosing an e-discovery supplier, whether vendor or law firm. They’re sending that message to CFOs everywhere. It won’t take long for that message to flow down to any GCs that have been doing things “the old way.”

Technological features aside, it is also safe to mention that process, both with respect to defensibility and efficiency, has been neglected. Process will become increasingly important (and should be more of a focus than it currently is). Using technology without employing a vetted process is inviting chaos to the party.

Ralph Losey Argues with NYT

Another noted commentator in the field jumped on the NYT article as well. Losey argues that the Times’ proposition that advances in E-Discovery technology costs jobs is contrary to actual circumstances. He notes that new software creates new, highly-skilled positions, rather than eliminating them. Some of this is similar to my position above. I will quibble with the following passage:

The new technologies advancing search and review automation discussed in the story do not replace “expensive lawyers” as alleged. The new software does, however, force lawyers to learn new, more highly skilled tasks. The article seems to overlook the fact that the advanced e-discovery search and review technologies all still require lawyers to operate. They still require skilled attorneys to fit the technologies into a larger legal methodology. They still require the ESI to be understood. The software programs do not run themselves. They are only a tool. They are just a hammer, and without a carpenter, they will not build a case on their own.

Not exactly. Any time new technology comes forward, some positions are lost. Many can be transitioned to new roles, often requiring new skills, as Losey describes in his post. But there will be fewer jobs for document-reviewing attorneys in the future, due to the implementation of technologies that:

1. More efficiently cull out non-responsive data prior to review; and
2. Automatically classify documents (likely based on a human-reviewed sample created at the beginning of the review process).

While other types of jobs may emerge (in such fields as Legal Project Management, Search and Retrieval, Computer Science, etc…), this doesn’t mean that some jobs aren’t lost. They are.

This is a minor disagreement however, as I found myself in agreement with almost all of Losey’s article. I especially enjoyed the embedded Star Trek video of the trial of Capt. Kirk. Nice touch.

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DIY Cybercrime Kits Cause Surge in Phishing Attacks

Posted by rjbiii on January 20, 2010

USA Today posts the news on that an increase in phishing attacks has been driven by cheap, easy-to-use cybercrime kits:

DIY kits have been a staple in the cyberunderground for some time. But now they’ve dropped in price and become more user-friendly.

“If you know how to download music or a movie you have the necessary experience to begin using one of these kits,” says Gunter Ollman, senior researcher at security firm Damballa.

Indeed, newbie cybercrooks and veterans alike are using DIY kits to carry out phishing campaigns at an accelerated rate, security researchers say. They’ve been blasting out fake e-mail messages crafted to look like official notices from UPS (UPS), FedEx (FDX) or the IRS; or account updates from Vonage, Facebook or Microsoft Outlook (MSFT); or medical alerts about the H1N1 flu virus.

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Around the Block: Jan. 7, 2010

Posted by rjbiii on January 7, 2010

A look at some interesting recent articles and posts about law and technology:

New York case law on litigation holds is discussed by Attorney Mark Berman. From the article:

It is well established that the “utter failure to establish any form of litigation hold at the outset of litigation is grossly negligent.” A showing of gross negligence is “plainly enough to justify sanctions at least as serious as an adverse inference.”

BUT…

On the other hand, not every matter is ripe for e-discovery, and the decision in Kaiser v. Raoul’s Rest. Corp.,is illustrative of the fact that one still needs to sufficiently justify a request for e-discovery, and that overbroad demands will not be countenanced.

The Fulton County Daily Reporter posts the news that a Georgia Judge has voluntarily stepped down, apparently because of an investigation into his relationship with a defendant that began on Facebook. From the article:

Woods’ departure from the bench effectively ends inquiries being made in the circuit from the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates complaints against judges. The JQC, whose workings are confidential by law, has made no public statement of any investigation regarding Woods.

From Ryley, Carlock, and Applewhite:

In Vagenos v. LDG Financial Services, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 121490 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 31, 2009), District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan denied defendant’s in limine motion to preclude plaintiff from offering at trial an alleged duplicate recording of an electronically-stored telephone message, but ordered an adverse inference instruction for plaintiff and his counsel’s failure to preserve the message.

From Law Technology News, an article examining how to Mine Web 2.0 for Evidence:

On Oct. 17, 2009, an armed assailant robbed two men outside a housing project in Brooklyn, N.Y. Almost immediately, the police focused their investigation on Rodney Bradford, a 19-year-old resident of the housing project who had been indicted a year earlier for a similar robbery. After one of the victims positively identified Bradford in a police lineup, the police arrested him and charged him with first-degree robbery.

Open-and-shut case, right? Wrong. It turns out Bradford was innocent and he had an airtight alibi to prove it. At the time of the crime, he was 12 miles away at his father’s house in Harlem, updating his Facebook status. After the district attorney subpoenaed Facebook and received the exculpatory evidence, Bradford was cleared of all charges and released.

Computerworld contributor Richard Power discusses how the Information Age has transformed the world the of the Private Investigator, with a Q&A with former FBI Agent (and current PI) Ed Stroz:

Stroz had served for 16 distinguished years in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), during which he established the New York City FBI computer crime squad, one of the first two in the country, and directed several significant FBI investigations, including the high-profile international case of Vladimir Levin, a Russian hacker who broke into Citibank. In 2000, Stroz founded a private investigation (PI) firm in 2000, and has assisted his corporate clients in responding to Internet-extortions, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, hacks and unauthorized access, and theft of trade secrets. He has also pioneered the concept of incorporating behavioral science into the methodology for addressing computer crime and abuse.

Marica Coyle posts an article for the National Law Journal noting that the Supreme Court will hear a case to resolve a circuit split concerning the work-product doctrine.

Textron Inc. v. U.S. stems from a long-running legal battle between the corporation and the Internal Revenue Service over the government’s demand for Textron’s tax-accrual work papers. Those papers generally are prepared with the assistance of in-house and external counsel and relied upon by independent auditors to determine the accuracy of financial statements. They often contain legal analyses and evaluations of potential litigation risks associated with particular tax transactions.

Last August, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-2 en banc ruling, held that the papers were not protected by the work-product doctrine and had to be turned over to the IRS in a tax shelter investigation.

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Law Firm Staffing for the future…and a Law Firm Staffing Reference Model

Posted by rjbiii on December 17, 2009

“Law firm staffing is more an artifact of history than design. Forward thinking law firms need to re-architect themselves,” according to a post at Prism Legal. From the article:

It seems clear lawyers must delegate analysis and management to other professionals. So firms need more business analysts and project managers generally for effective service delivery and specifically to support and alternative fee arrangements. What is the right ratio of each to the number of lawyers? Does that ratio vary by practice? What other types of professional support personnel are needed? How should firms analyze and answer these questions? I don’t have answers but I think these are important – and the right – questions. Firms that answer them well can gain clients and prosper.

The article also references an earlier post, in which the author suggested the need for a Law Firm Reference Model. Interesting idea, and arguably necessary in these days when much of law (especially e-discovery and computer law) is intersecting with other disciplines.

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The Right to Broadband

Posted by rjbiii on November 22, 2009

Spain and Finland are implementing laws that will guarantee a citizen’s right to purchase broadband of at least one megabyte per second. The article on Finland notes that France has made internet access a human right. Of course, France has also passed the controversial three-strikes law, which would forcibly disconnect users from internet access without legal resource.

H/T: Slashdot

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Social Media: Careful while Handling

Posted by rjbiii on August 17, 2009

From Michigan comes an article that warns about the evidentiary value of data posted to social media sites. The bottom line quote:

“Don’t put anything on a social network page, blog, Web site or in an email,” he said, “that you don’t want printed on the front page of the newspaper.”

Although you’ve heard it before…you’ll hear it again here.

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What happens when the Review Application is Smarter than we are?

Posted by rjbiii on July 27, 2009

According to an article in the Science section of the NY Times, scientists have become concerned that machines may one day outsmart us.

Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.

Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.

I think that there is no doubt that a profound change is occurring here, and that we need to (at least attempt to) proactively manage the change. In our industry, we have seen some displacement of attorneys reviewing documents due to outsourcing. What happens when the review application not only stores the review data, but also actually conducts the review for relevance as well? Yet trying to install limits on the growth of technology is a difficult, and perhaps ill-advised, effort.

The article continues by mentioning scenarios which have machines taking over…or at least foresee the ending of the “human era.” Interestingly, the final passages look at an interesting occurrence in these times:
Despite his concerns, Dr. Horvitz said he was hopeful that artificial intelligence research would benefit humans, and perhaps even compensate for human failings. He recently demonstrated a voice-based system that he designed to ask patients about their symptoms and to respond with empathy. When a mother said her child was having diarrhea, the face on the screen said, “Oh no, sorry to hear that.”

A physician told him afterward that it was wonderful that the system responded to human emotion. “That’s a great idea,” Dr. Horvitz said he was told. “I have no time for that.”

So here, we program a machine to simulate human emotion, alleviating the need for a real human to be supportive. Of all the ways the future can go, I would say that humans attempting to emulate machine-like behavior for the sake of efficiency is the worst choice. We cannot be better machines than machines…we can only maintain a true course in all of this chaos by embracing our own humanity. The doctor above who “had no time” to be supportive needs (ahem) to be re-programmed.

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