Concept Search: A Better Way?
From my conversation with Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola of the United States District Court, D.C. Circuit, and from a lot of the lawyers I've talked to about this, I get the sense that they think that the technology is available, or will soon be, to improve these document searches, and they will expect companies to use it. The big item on that agenda is "concept search." The notion of concept search is that you don't need to hit the keywords exactly in order to get a hit in the search. This should cut down both on false positives and false negatives. How do they do it? Recommind says you take an initial set of search results and pick out a few especially representative documents. The software analyzes these documents to see how the terms are used in them. It then feeds this analysis back into the document database and finds documents that relate to the concepts behind the use of those words and categorizes them by topic. At least, that's the claim. I've never seen it in action. There is something to theory, and in my conversation with Judge Facciola, who is influential in this field, he was enthusiastic about the concept of concept search.Why is an electronic repository better than a CD in a filing cabinet in the lawyer's office? First, of course lawyers are all trustworthy, but the digital repository probably includes some way to demonstrate that the documents have not been tampered with. Perhaps it all still comes down to trusting the admin or corporate counsel anyway, but there's still some value in it. Also, the ability to preserve new documents as they are created sounds interesting, although it needs to be constructed carefully so that there is the opportunity for inside counsel to review before the document is locked away. This new legal document technology is cool and promising, but it's probably wise to use it as a supplement to older, more established methods. In a few years you can probably expect such applications to grow pretty rapidly as court cases establish the "need" for them. With their assistance, even companies as technologically behind the curve as Google can meet their legal obligations. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. For insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack.
On the legal hold end, Recommind has a new offering called Insite Legal Hold. Working with the same search software, it allows you to take search results and first examine them manually for false positives. Then it preserves the documents securely. It can also automatically preserve new documents that meet the search criteria.