Author archive

Alex Heshmaty

Alex Heshmaty is a legal copywriter and journalist with a particular interest in legal technology. He runs Legal Words, a legal copywriting agency based in Bristol.

virtual reality girl

The basic idea of virtual reality (VR) is to create a computer generated environment which someone can experience and explore, through the use of a headset (incorporating vision and sound) and sometimes other input devices (eg haptic gloves) which allow them to manipulate their virtual surroundings. The concept of a computer simulated reality is nothing new and experiments with VR systems were already being carried out in the late 60s (eg The Sword of Damocles). Advances in technology during the late 80s and early 90s led to an increasing cultural awareness of VR through films such as Lawnmower Man – and the rise of computer games prompted more companies to attempt to create a device which could be used in the same way as a home console. But progress was slow, with a trailblazing attempt by Sega in 1993 terminated, officially due to fears that users could injure themselves by moving around due to the “reality” of the headset (although perhaps more to do with limited processing power and reports of testers developing headaches and motion sickness). However, although it struggled to take off as a consumer device, VR systems have been used for many years for training in certain professions: teaching pilots to fly, police officers to shoot and surgeons to operate.


Net neutrality is the idea that all data sent across the internet should be treated equally, without the application of any discriminatory filtering based on specific criteria. To better understand the concept, it helps to view the internet as a “dumb” network of pipes merely facilitating the flow of data from one location (eg a website) to another (eg a user’s laptop). Since the inception of the internet, a variety of techniques have been used for commercial or law enforcement purposes to restrict this data flow, either by preventing certain data from reaching users or conditionally slowing down the speed of data.


Towards the end of 2015, the EU institutions reached agreement on a new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will replace the 1995 Data Protection Directive, seeking to implement a stricter and more harmonised data privacy regime. The new GDPR, which was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 4 May 2016 and is expected to come into force on 25 May 2018, is considered to be one of the most comprehensive overhauls of EU privacy legislation.


In 2013 I wrote about Google Drive and Chromebooks for lawyers interested in adopting a more cloud-based approach. Since then, many businesses have turned to cloud solutions and Google has been actively promoting Google Apps for Work which includes a range of its products.

laptop, tablet, smartphone

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) refers to the growing trend of employees using their personal laptops, smartphones and other communications devices in the workplace or elsewhere for work-related purposes. The related Bring Your Own App (BYOA) is essentially the software version of BYOD, where an employee uses personal (often cloud-based) software for work purposes, which could be something as simple as forwarding work-related emails to a personal Gmail address. According to recent research, more than half of UK workers have already adopted BYOD, and employers are increasingly asking their lawyers for advice on managing the employment law aspects. Both BYOD and BYOA throw up similar issues concerning security, privacy and ownership.

big data for law

The term “big data” essentially refers to very large sets of data, as well as the processes used for capturing, analysing and extracting value from these data sets. An often-quoted definition of big data is Gartner’s 3 Vs: “Big data is high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.” Discussions around big data often focus on public benefits (such as crime prevention or health research) or its value to business (such as upselling and recommendations engines). Big data techniques can help people to spot general patterns or trends (often with the use of visual displays) but can also be applied on an individual targeted level.

driverless car

Advances in electronics and computing have gradually been automating various driving functions over several decades, introducing intelligent systems such as ABS and traction control and the more novel automated parking features. However, although Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab project experimented with the idea of a truly autonomous car back in the 80s, the spectre of a roadworthy car which drives itself has remained in the realm of science fiction – until recently. Over recent years, Google has been regularly making the headlines with its self-driving car project, which applies a range of sensors (lasers, radars and cameras) along with powerful computing software and extensive mapping to enable customised vehicles to drive themselves on public roads, safely transporting passengers from A to B.

Much of the free content we enjoy on the web is supported by the advertising publishers sell on those pages. Until recently we have readily accepted this bargain. However, as advertising methods have become ever more distracting and intrusive, users have in increasing numbers taken to installing ad blockers to mitigate the effects: they facilitate a faster and cleaner browsing experience, enhance privacy, reduce the chances of picking up malware and save data.

According to a recent report by “anti-ad blocking” company PageFair, ad blocking has grown by over 40 per cent globally over the past year, taking the worldwide numbers of ad blocking users to almost 200 million. However, UK ad blocking users rose at a far greater rate over the same period, by 82 per cent to 12 million.

Web by Ryan DickeyThe term “Deep Web” was coined in 2001 by Computer scientist Mike Bergman in his white paper “The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value”. He used the term to describe the parts of the web containing content which was not indexed by traditional search engines, claiming that it was “400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web” (or “surface web”). In effect, this means that a Google search which produces millions of results only reveals the tip of an iceberg of data, the majority of which is hidden below the surface.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones, generally refer to aircraft without an on-board pilot, which are controlled remotely or by computer software. Originally the preserve of the military carrying out surveillance or deploying bombs, drones have been adapted for a wide range of uses in all kinds of industries including agriculture, security and law enforcement, film production, journalism, medicine and scientific research. With the dawn of mass produced inexpensive drones, these flying cameras have now become extremely popular amongst consumers, both for purposes of photography and simply for fun; kites 2.0!

Over the last few years, apps have proliferated on smartphones and tablets and there are now over a million individual apps available for both Apple and Android devices. Although generally only games and entertainment apps receive attention from the press, there are also many apps available for professionals, including lawyers. It’s worth noting that the […]

The first incarnation of wearable technology consisted of the calculator watches which were popular in the 1980s. Mainly produced by Casio, these were mass marketed and relatively cheap but came to be seen as tacky. Aside from telling the time and calculating sums, functionality often included stop watches, countdown timers, a multitude of alarms, phone number storage and later versions could even act as remote controls.