“Big Brother is Watching You” ― George Orwell, 1984

Although he wrote his dystopian masterpiece even before ARPANET was a twinkle in the eye of the US Department of Defense, Orwell described the essence of a society in which words, actions and even thoughts are constantly monitored. In 2018, the society he described is no longer fiction: GPS and smartphone apps track our location, Alexa sits in our homes listening to our private conversations, Google knows what we are thinking sometimes even before we do, and we feed Facebook a constant stream of personal data to enable advertisers to sell us stuff we don’t need or persuade us to vote a certain way.

Data is the new oil and most businesses now obsessively gather information on their customers, employees, website visitors and anyone else they come into contact with. Some of this Big Data is useful – either to the business or their users – but much of it is simply collected and stored (this is known as Dark Data). But although the EU has attempted to safeguard the privacy rights of its citizens with the GDPR, and privacy campaigners such as Max Schrems have made inroads to challenging the collection of data by Silicon Valley, the vast majority of people still willingly (or unknowingly) trade their personal data in exchange for a multitude of internet services.

Although much of this raw data is valuable in its own right, organisations which can find the links between different data silos, and effectively see how an individual navigates the internet and conducts their life, ends up with refined – and far more valuable – data. The way to link all the pieces of individual data and create a data trail is through the use of tracking.

Open law is the idea that public legal information should be freely available to everyone to access, use and republish. The current position in the UK differs completely as between legislation and case law.

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch December 2017. Legal Web Watch is a free email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

Two recent reports consider in some detail the application of technology in delivering legal advice and assistance, viewed through different prisms. Both are, I think, essential reading if you are at all interested in legal tech as we are in danger of being swept away by the hype surrounding leading edge AI and blockchain developments at the top end of the market.

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch June 2018. Legal Web Watch is a free email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

The following items have been selected from Delia Venables’ “New” page.

Times are changing. The way we create, share and consume information has evolved rapidly and so to has the way we work. Now, more than ever, not only is it possible, but it is vitally important that a firm has remote access to its data from a multitude of devices.

Why do we need remote access?

If you are only able to work from the office, you are putting unnecessary restrictions on yourself and your business. You may remember ‘The Beast from the East’, where this became a reality for many as roads became impassable, trains were severely delayed, and schools closed meaning parents had to stay at home.

Wouldn’t it be perfect if, despite not being able to come to work, they could still work anyway? Well now they can. With browser-based software, such as DPS Spitfire, all they would need to do is log in online and get to work. It really is that simple.

At Quill, we’ve recently launched an outsourced typing service, called Quill Type, in association with Law Society-accredited Document Direct. Here’s why the new addition to our outsourcing portfolio has come about…

Outsourced typing services are gaining traction in legal circles as law firms alleviate the unmanageable demands upon their limited internal typing resources.

You see, it’s the very nature of law that means practices generate lots of paperwork. Each legal matter requires a series of correspondence and documentation between solicitor, client, barrister and court. Other organisations are often involved too, for example HM Revenue & Customs, Land Registry and estate agents in residential conveyancing cases. These third parties necessitate interaction, mostly via written methods.

In an earlier contribution to the Newsletter I made the point that the partly hidden “A” as in Online Alternative Dispute Resolution, which tended to focus ODR’s perceived remit on out of court solutions such as mediation and arbitration, was beginning to disappear altogether as more focus was made on introducing ODR into the justice system itself. How is that progressing?

One of the questions we’ve most commonly been asked in recent months is “does the GDPR mean we have to get fresh consents from our entire marketing database?” In many (indeed, perhaps most) cases, the answer is “no” – though the explanation for this is not all that straightforward, and so the confusion here is easy to understand.

There are not as many IT and practice management services for barristers as for solicitors but there are some very strong players available.

Here are the key players in this market (based on my web page www.venables.co.uk/chambers-it.htm), followed by two short articles from key providers of services to chambers, Martin Poulter and Helen Ford, providing a view of the past, the present and the future.

Cryptocurrencies are a form of decentralised digital currency based on principles of cryptography. They use blockchain technology which is essentially a cryptographically secured method of recording data transactions which cannot be altered retroactively (see What is the blockchain?). Complicated mathematical equations need to be solved in order to generate each unit of the currencies, a process known as crypto-mining.

301 redirects are a way of ensuring online traffic gets sent to the most up-to-date version of a URL. For example, if you delete a page on a website and your customers try to access that page and it’s no longer there, they get an error message, which isn’t a great user experience, right? So, what you do is permanently redirect the old URL to the new, or most appropriate, URL. This is known as a 301 redirect.

In Algorithms and the Law, a paper by Jeremy Barnett, Adriano Soares Koshiyama and Philip Treleaven, the authors discuss the emergence of algorithms as artificial persons and the need to formally regulate them. It aims to start discussion in the legal profession regarding the legal impact of algorithms on companies, software developers, insurers and lawyers.