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David Flint

David Flint is Senior Partner at Scottish law firm MacRoberts LLP, Glasgowand Head of their IP, Technology and Commercial Group. He chairs the ABA Business Section International Committee, IP Subcommittee and the ABA Cyberspace Law Non-US Cyber Laws Task Force.

secret

This article considers two recent developments relating to data protection and trade secrets: two sides of the same coin perhaps.

In the old days it was relatively easy to determine what devices were connected to the corporate network; they were large and cumbersome. Indeed, it was difficult for new devices to be connected to the network without the assistance of the corporate IT department; the confusing array of IP addresses and ports and the obscure art of modem configuration meant that it was well beyond most of us to do this.

For those who did require remote access, a pair of dedicated modems was needed and a telephone line which would remain stable and undropped for hours. I remember needing a line to remain connected for 7 hours, knowing that a click on the line meant that we would have to start again. Access to the network from outside could only be achieved through modems so, to ensure the integrity of the network, all that needed to be done was to check that there were no unexpected modems connected to phone sockets in the building.

If users were to be allowed mobile devices, these were in general confined to senior staff – none of whom could ever work out how to circumvent the controls. Mobile phones were just phones which were cordless. The IT department had total control over the devices used, what software was on them (if any) and nothing which was not IT controlled was allowed to access the network. Few users worked, or were expected to work, remotely.

Oh, how it has all changed!

In previous issues I have looked at the legal issues surrounding cloud computing. In this final article I look at concerns, debunk myths and suggest issues that lawyers thinking of implementing cloud computing might wish to consider. (See all articles in the series.)

In the last issue, I started looking at the issues of cloud computing and some of the data protection issues. This article continues that analysis.

I can remember the days when computer storage meant a stack of punched cards and disk drives were measured in kilobytes rather than petabytes; when offsite storage meant the boot of the office manager’s car. I am not very old.

Now, even the smallest law firm uses computers and it is possible to run a business from a PC, unlike the dedicated IT requirement of 30 years ago. Lawyers, however, still like keeping things whether it be paper files or electronically stored materials and our nature means that we are reluctant ever to destroy anything ”¦ just in case! Whilst my litigation colleagues will advise that indefinite storage is both a blessing and a curse – e-discovery may not turn up exactly what a party might have wished – ready and instant access to whatever is needed, from any location, is a fact of the modern legal world. No longer does one need to arrive at a meeting or at a distant court to find that the all-important document is languishing on one’s desk or, my particular hang-up, waiting to be printed from the remote printer that I have omitted to visit before rushing off.

Web 2.0 has come and ”¦ well that is generally about it. Within a fairly staid and traditional Scottish legal fraternity, to date fragmented and inconsistent use has been made of the tools of Web 2.0. A number of smaller firms have started to make use of the internet as a means of communicating with clients and the wider public, but they are largely the exception rather than the rule.

No law firm can today be without a presence on the internet. It is clear that our clients, colleagues and other stakeholders use the internet not only as a source of information but as the primary source of information, about who we are and what we do. It was with that single focus in mind that, in the early part of 2008 we embarked upon a total update of the MacRoberts website.

Sometimes it must seem idyllic to escape from the stresses and strains of this “real world” and take refuge in virtual worlds far from these worldly issues. Unfortunately, the scourge of copyright infringement has arrived in our virtual utopia.

For the legal world attempting to come to terms with the implications of the internet, the thought that the world has already moved on may come as something of a shock; however, such is the case. Web 2.0 is upon is – even if Web 1.0 doesn’t seem to have been fully assimilated.