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Google Seeks 'Do-No-Discoverable-Evil' Patent

timothy posted about a year ago | from the can-we-bribe-someone-to-bury-this-from-auditors? dept.

The Courts 109

theodp writes "E-mails and other communications between employees,' explains Google in a newly-published patent application for its Policy Violation Checker invention, 'can implicate potential violations of company policy or local, state or federal law that can go unchecked by attorneys or other legal personnel.' So how can you avoid those embarrassing Goldman Sachs and Enron e-mail gaffes? Use Google's 'methods and systems for identifying problematic phrases in an electronic document'! From the patent application: 'Documents may be used as evidence in court, administrative, or other proceedings. It is in a company's best interest to minimize or eliminate policy violations and/or situations that could give rise to legal liability. It is also often in a company's best interest to be able to Pack [?] these situations. Problematic phrases include, but are not limited to, phrases that present policy violations, have legal implications, or are otherwise troublesome to a company, business, or individual.' So, if you can't Do-No-Evil, at least you can Do-No-Discoverable-Evil!"

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attacks usefulness of email (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634345)

Right, so if you're doing something shady, don't use email to coordinate it.

Re:attacks usefulness of email (4, Insightful)

Adriax (746043) | about a year ago | (#43634725)

That's the idea of this patent. The system will let you know if what you wrote in an email about shady dealings will be incriminating, so you can re-word it.
It's a lawyer in a box helping you facilitate shady actions with minimal discoverable evidence.

Prevents innocent mistakes and costly cleanup (4, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43635331)

That's the idea of this patent. The system will let you know if what you wrote in an email about shady dealings will be incriminating, so you can re-word it.
It's a lawyer in a box helping you facilitate shady actions with minimal discoverable evidence.

Equally, it can be used to not do it; how it is used depends on the users intent, it isn't inherent in the patented method. (Although "violations of company policy", called out in the patent as well as violations of the law, are most interesting for users who are trying to control what is done to align with policy and less useful -- actively harmful to the company, in fact -- if individual email users use it for concealment.)

Certainly, I know in many jobs I've had there would have been less cleanup for other people to do if staff that were innocently ignorant of details of company policy and/or controlling law had something reading their email that caught potential problems and pointed them in the right direction before they sent out emails to customers, contractors, etc.

Re:Prevents innocent mistakes and costly cleanup (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43636037)

You read too much into it.

Complying with company policy may be something as simple as using the term "person hours" instead of "man hours". I'm sure you can imagine a thousand similar examples in virtually any line of business.

Re:Prevents innocent mistakes and costly cleanup (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year ago | (#43638281)

You read too much into it.

Complying with company policy may be something as simple as using the term "person hours" instead of "man hours". I'm sure you can imagine a thousand similar examples in virtually any line of business.

Icebike, you are fined five credits for violations of the verbal morality statute

Re:Prevents innocent mistakes and costly cleanup (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#43639647)

Well, at least Slashdotters are in general not in danger of violating the statute against exchange of body fluids. :-)

Re:attacks usefulness of email (2, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#43635395)

That's the idea of this patent. The system will let you know if what you wrote in an email about shady dealings will be incriminating, so you can re-word it.
It's a lawyer in a box helping you facilitate shady actions with minimal discoverable evidence.

And it is very telling that it comes from Google.

Re:attacks usefulness of email (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43635985)

That's the idea of this patent. The system will let you know if what you wrote in an email about shady dealings will be incriminating, so you can re-word it.
It's a lawyer in a box helping you facilitate shady actions with minimal discoverable evidence.

Bullshit.

Go read the article instead of the hopelessly biased summary.

This is more about not letting casual joking references slip into official communication due to fact that future readers will not be privy the the reference and will substitute their own prejudiced interpretation, much like you have done above.

Its easy to use every day office language in an email and have it horribly miss interpreted by people unfamiliar with the jargon or the context.

I was once called on the carpet for saying in an email to one of my programmers something like "Mrs Jones has reported extraneous characters appearing on the end the report lines, so be sure you clear out the buffer when you next look at her programs." Mrs Jones saw this and complained up the chain that I was making derogatory remarks about her prodigious girth.

Re:attacks usefulness of email (2)

idunham (2852899) | about a year ago | (#43636913)

+1 insightful.

There's also checking what level of confidentiality is involved (claim 18), what appears to be a buzzword killer (claim 16), alerting the company (claim 15), referring the employee to a company policy web page (claim 20) and some other such things.

It looks like this might be what Google needed for a certain email that got dragged out in the Oracle case.
It would also be useful for any developer of business email clients or office suites...

Re:attacks usefulness of email (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43637479)

Yes, the concept has been around awhile. I wrote a thesis on it in 2006: Knowledge Discovery in Corporate Email: The Compliance Bot Meets Enron (http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/37574/85813548.pdf?sequence=1). -kkw

Re:attacks usefulness of email (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about a year ago | (#43639997)

... but all to often, such bantering is indeed refering to real shady deels, and the joke is on the public at large which thinks that their bank (or whatever) is having their best interest in mind when dealing with their money.

The fact that after "discovery" of such e-mails, the joke is on the banks is actually a good thing!

So, all this software will achieve is just make those indelicates more careful about making sure that the butts of their jokes can't hear them...

Re:attacks usefulness of email (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43636039)

The system will let you know if what you wrote in an email about shady dealings will be incriminating, so you can re-word it.

Google Clippy: "You seem to be writing a criminal conspiracy proposal. Can I help you with the wording?"

Re:attacks usefulness of email (1)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year ago | (#43634875)

What is funny is, this has been around for a while.
This is not patentable.

Re:attacks usefulness of email (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634925)

Nor are rounded corners and a generic CD icon with a musical note, but here we are...

Re:attacks usefulness of email (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#43635319)

The supreme court just reaffirmed this, in that, if you can't prove the gov't is listening in on your phone calls, opening your mail, hacking your computers, whatever, you can't sue them to stop.

Of course, in this case, the gov't is extra special, in that whatever evidence you do have, the gov't just declares it a "national security secret", and poof, the evidence disappears.

Re:attacks usefulness of email (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43635493)

At least not plaintext email. I guess Google staff is knowledgable enough to encrypt their sensitive messages.

Re:attacks usefulness of email (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43636291)

We're talking about corporate e-mail. The usual scenario is that the corporation is being sued and must respond to a court order to produce all documents related to a particular subject. Whether or not those documents are encrypted is irrelevant -- decrypted copies must be produced or there will be serious legal repercussions.

Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be sued? (5, Insightful)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43634363)

Clippy: Do you want to really say that and be sued?
.
It's the same as what happens when there is "open" government. As soom as there are laws and guidelines that governmental and departmental emails must be available for public perusal, suddenly all of the email channels are just filled with happy fluff and declarations of meeting times only and perhaps some birthday greetings. All matters of substance suddenly are done only by direct telephone contact or person-to-person meetings with no notes taken that could be used as evidence or found in discovery. Notice how few top level politicians directly use email, or if they do they tend to use private accounts to conduct gov't business even if that's technically and legally a no-no.
.
So google is making a tool to warn people as they type that what they type could be "construed" as a bad statement. It's like Clippy popping up to tell you in a big brother voice "It's looks like you're making a sexually harassing statement or a statement that could put the company at fault. Do you really want to say that?"

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (4, Interesting)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43634457)

I'm not really sure that this is even something they can patent? Isn't their prior art?

I seem to recall that the various companies (like banks) have programs in place that do stuff like automatically redact and prohibit things like emailing a document that contains a social security number. Using the above example of SSNs, I seem to recall that it would redact SSNs by changing 000-00-0000 to ***-**-**** or the likes?

I didn't read the patent application but examining emails and other documents for risky content that increase liability seems to have been long-since done and fairly run-of-the-mill considering that it is already in use and has been for some time.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (5, Funny)

truman1 (2915211) | about a year ago | (#43634513)

Using the above example of SSNs, I seem to recall that it would redact SSNs by changing 000-00-0000 to ***-**-**** or the likes?

Interestingly, this same thing works on Slashdot for your password. If you accidentally write your password to a comment, Slashcode will hide it.

My password is ******. See?

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634571)

4chan faggot

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634615)

That you even recognize the source of that meme bodes ill for your reputation as well.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634919)

The source of that meme long pre-dates 4chan

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (2)

JustOK (667959) | about a year ago | (#43634605)

My password is hunter2. See?

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43640961)

See, this is why I use a bunch of asterisks as my password.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634619)

Hey, that was my old password!

Re: Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635401)

Hunter2... did it work?

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635497)

******

Holy crap!!! It works. That's neat!

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634541)

Without reading the patent, how can you possibly make any claim to prior art? "Isn't the headline of this something like something else I read before? That's prior art!"

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635461)

Based on the summary. Though I suppose the summary has been known to lie.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (2)

BSAtHome (455370) | about a year ago | (#43634555)

This is a typical "human-replaced-by-machine" type of patent, which has been struck down before.

The whole process is nothing more than a lookup of phrases and match against policy. This has been in existence for a long time in written (dead tree version) communication. Adding "database" or "computer" in your application does not make this something new. However, that detail seems to be at a loss at the USPTO.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634747)

I work in a company that sells user-configurable deep inspection appliances. One of the first things shown on introductory course to the products was writing a fingerprint that searched for keywords on email traffic, and which was used to terminate a connection before such keywords would have reached the recipient. Although network intrusion prevention systems are mostly designed to detect computer security threats, every even minimally flexible system has this feature, and it has been demonstrated like this a million times. The patent system is patently rotten if Google is granted this patent, and they actually succeed in using it to limit competition.

Detecting context (3, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43635385)

I think the key new thing that most people are missing is the first phrase after "comprising" in claim 1: "detecting a context of the electronic document", and the fact that pretty much everything in the patent (including the identification of whether particular phrases are problematic) depends on the detected context. Its not simple blind phrase checking.

The patent system is patently rotten if Google is granted this patent, and they actually succeed in using it to limit competition.

The patent system is patently rotten independently of that, but most of the arguments being used to dismiss the novelty of this invention in this thread appear to be missing the key point in the method.

Re:Detecting context (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635537)

That might make it different enough. I admit(ed) to going off the summary entirely and not reading the patent application. You have taken a look it seems.

I recall an article discussing something along those lines (not blind find/replace or similar) in eWeek a number of years ago. I am unable to find the article but it was about a hospital and was when HIPPA compliance was either just enacted or was soon to be enforced. They were contextually examining outgoing emails for sensitive data and either refusing to send it or redacting it. I am pretty certain it was in eWeek but, alas, the names of the companies escape me but even if it is contextually based it seems likely that there is prior art. Maybe there is something novel about their approach? Maybe I'm misremembering the article?

Re:Detecting context (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#43639667)

As long as it doesn't state what "context" means exactly, it might well be something like "email sent to a non-company address". And even otherwise I'm sure the "context detection" is nothing more than yet another keyword search or Bayesian filter.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635481)

That's what the summary seemed to indicate. I was too lazy (I still am) to go read the application. At the very least the end result is something that has been done time and time again and I doubt that they can come up with any way of doing it that is novel and not obvious. Minimally, assuming any accuracy in the summary, there's prior art that would prevent this I'd imagine.

Seems strange to me... Google has been doing some odd things lately, I wonder what their grand scheme is. It used to be that they wanted to index all the information in the world. The obvious goal was then to monetize it. They seem to have done both well. So, what's next?

Re: Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634805)

Are you SURE you want to allow the use of "their" in this sentence, exposing you to on-line ridicule?

Re: Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be s (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635547)

LOL I noticed that right after posting it. I almost added a second post below it mentioning it and mentioning that /. should have an edit option for a short time after submitting your post. Thanks for going easy on me. ;)

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

perrin (891) | about a year ago | (#43635129)

"I didn't read the patent application but"...

Slashdot should institute an automatic rejection of any post that contains this phrase. Usually what is follows is devoid of any value based on a misunderstanding of what the patent actually says.

Hey, I should patent that idea!

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635549)

Next thing you'll be expecting us to read the articles...

And, well, it would be pretty boring with just one or two posts per story.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635145)

000-00-0000? That's *my* social security number!

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (2)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year ago | (#43635325)

I'm not really sure that this is even something they can patent? Isn't their prior art?

I seem to recall that the various companies (like banks) have programs in place that do stuff like automatically redact and prohibit things like emailing a document that contains a social security number. Using the above example of SSNs, I seem to recall that it would redact SSNs by changing 000-00-0000 to ***-**-**** or the likes?

I didn't read the patent application but examining emails and other documents for risky content that increase liability seems to have been long-since done and fairly run-of-the-mill considering that it is already in use and has been for some time.

You and the mods who pushed this to +5 insightful don't understand that prior art is about specifics, not "hey, didn't some guy in tennessee once do something kinda like part of that?"

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635585)

Could you elaborate? I'm quite willing to learn.

If there's prior art then what does it take to make it patentable? I've now taken a gander at the patent application and it doesn't appear to do anything different than systems described in the past. The only things novel that I see are "as the businesses glow" (glowing businesses is novel) and presenting the information in-line which seems obvious to me.

What specifics need to be changed? How much needs to be changed?

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635651)

It's not the idea, it's the method. So I could patent a toaster that used human body heat to toast bread because even though toasters have been created, the method of using human body heat to toast bread is new and novel.

I'm not saying that this particular patent fits that description, but it would be patentable if, say, they're using a true AI to do the analysis or something.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635805)

Ah - I thought you were saying that this patent qualified too. Thank you for the description by the way.

Purpose vs. method (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43635361)

I didn't read the patent application but examining emails and other documents for risky content that increase liability seems to have been long-since done and fairly run-of-the-mill considering that it is already in use and has been for some time.

That's the purpose (which isn't patentable even if it is novel), not the method (which is what is patented). The fact that the purpose is served by some existing solution doesn't mean that a new method to acheive the purpose isn't patentable.

Re:Purpose vs. method (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635623)

Thank you. I posted an additional question up above this one. I've read the patent and it doesn't look all that novel except for having "businesses glow" (really) and showing the possible conflict in-line. The latter seems obvious to me and the part about the glowing businesses (I'm not making that up) is probably a typographical error. The method (check a database, find conflict, notify user of conflict) appears to be just doing what other folks have been doing since at least the start of HIPAA. I suppose showing the user in-line might possibly be novel?

You appear to know more than I about this. What would it take to make this go through and do you think it should go through based on what you're able to see?

about those glowing businesses (1)

quixote9 (999874) | about a year ago | (#43636421)

Really? The GOOG will do new improved special context searching to give you legal bulletproofing, but their spellchecker isn't good enough to notice that "glow" isn't actually the right word in that context?

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43635403)

Man, I wouldn't be able to refer to components by their part numbers.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43635635)

I have to assume that it isn't something you'd have enabled if that were the case. I can't think of any reason to use such an application either though I suppose if it could review forum posts before I submit them and correct my usage of their/there/they're it would have some value for me.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#43636053)

Yes, there are existing systems – but there is a ongoing arms race out there. Glanced at the patent and I can’t find anything special about it, but it was only a glance.

New technologies come out. Social Media is a major headache in my line of work because all written client communication must be kept for 7 years.

I know of consultants who claim their software will detect people who are likely to commit fraud based on automatic textual analyst. (looking for things that indicate financial stress, suggestions that people meet after work, changes in patters (like stop e-mailing certain people), etc.)

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43636303)

I'd say, "Well find out." But, well, the USPTO seems to be willing to rubber stamp a bunch of crap and the trend doesn't seem to indicate that it will be improving.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43637285)

I work at a financial institution, and yes we already do this. Here's my suggestion. The USPTO should allow for individuals to submit examples (online) of prior art to nuke these bogus patents as soon as possible. I should patent this idea.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43637339)

I'm not really sure that this is even something they can patent? Isn't their prior art?

I remember talking to a programmer once about the patent office. He said it's pretty predictable. "Think of the right thing to do. The patent office will do the opposite of that."

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (5, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#43634493)

This sort of things already long gone. My company archives all email after 90days and deletes it after 1 year. Then they gave us a "chat client" for the majority of the company and an internal IRC channel for the IS department. So naturally everyone moved to those instead of email. Saving emails locally is punishable by termination and they have scripts that actively search for emails, archives and PST files and delete them.

My guess is, a lot of companies are doing this, and it's bad for Googles business model. So if they can get legal departments to trust that long term email storage isn't just a huge, decades long archive of casual conversations that can be subpenaed, taken out of context and generally used to sink any future case they may have to fight, then maybe they can get business to start using it again. The big problem with email is that courts have seemed to taken it as official correspondence or official policy if it's in an email rather than the casual conversation that it really is. Just because some bottom level manager says X policy is designed to rip people off does not mean that manager has any clue what they're talking about. Yes there are bad companies out there, but there are plenty of decent companies that have gotten caught up in huge legal battles over emails that certainly weren't nearly as big a deal as they were made out to be in court.

google needs to have people believe in safe email (4, Interesting)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43634517)

That's a good point you make. Google needs to keep people using email so that google can keep harvesting information out of the email contents, thus it's in google's best interest to keep email looking like a safe venue for communication. I had not thought of that particular aspect. I know that my mom is very circumspect about putting any health related things into email, even though her hospital is pushing her to use email to communicate with patients. She only wants to use it for confirming appointment times and changing appt times to ensure that she doesn't accidentally leak any HIPAA covered private patient health information.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

Kongming (448396) | about a year ago | (#43636113)

My company archives all email after 90days and deletes it after 1 year. Then they gave us a "chat client" for the majority of the company and an internal IRC channel for the IS department.

That sounds absolutely terrible for productivity, consistency, and internal accountability. Not being able to search for (or needing to meticulously save and organize mysefl) things like instructions, contacts, and details sent in past emails would seriously hinder my ability to do my job. I am very glad that I do not work for that kind of company.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#43638097)

Its actually not that bad. Since you know the system, and you know email is not a reliable way to store your data (and honestly never should have been in the first place) you start storing things in proper ways. On an internal wiki or normal folders on the network. It's actually done a lot to improve how well we document things because everyone knows they'll not be able to dig up 3yr old emails to figure it out. Those emails may have been satisfactory for the individual keeping them but they did no good to anyone else. Also, when you're transferring this important information to the wiki or where-ever you've got time to think about it as a public piece of data now. We have a false sense that our email is private and no-one else will likely ever see it... then it ends up in court. When you have to transfer the important bits to public domain you then have time to decide what you actually want to make public and what you just want to let the archive delete.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634675)

It's like Clippy popping up to tell you in a big brother voice "It's looks like you're making a sexually harassing statement or a statement that could put the company at fault. Do you really want to say that?"

More like: "It looks like you're about to make a statement that could potentially put the company at risk of liability. Please delete this message after sending it and dispose of all other evidence accordingly. Remember: It's safer to conduct this type of business face-to-face. Thank you and keep doing a great job!"

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635137)

Making the bad guys stop using electronic communication is a positive thing. It makes it more difficult for those people to organize their evil schemes. On top of that, sometimes one of the mooks is going to screw up by putting something in email that he shouldn't have. Efforts to use private emails is good too, because it allows you to identify and punish the people who are trying to circumvent the system - previously, those people would have just used normal email with no issue. It's an all-around win for the people.

Re:Clippy:Do you want to really say that and be su (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#43635473)

As soom as there are laws and guidelines that governmental and departmental emails must be available for public perusal, suddenly all of the email channels are just filled with happy fluff and declarations of meeting times only and perhaps some birthday greetings. All matters of substance suddenly are done only by direct telephone contact or person-to-person meetings with no notes taken that could be used as evidence or found in discovery.

I had a boss that would intentionally do this - anything that could potentially get him in trouble with higher ups was relayed in person. It's highly annoying when you can't get project information or task details in writing.

They should call it (1)

papasui (567265) | about a year ago | (#43634387)

Google Delete

Re:They should call it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634547)

Or "I don't know how to use gpg"

Re:They should call it (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year ago | (#43634827)

Google Shut Up
Since it warns people they wrote something bad before they hit send. Red underline for spelling mistakes. Green underline for grammar mistakes. Purple underline for homophobia. Gold underline for fraud.

Backfire (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634397)

If such a system was in use that resulted in deleted e-mails, it would almost certainly result in sanctions from a court, up to and including "death-knell" sanctions of summarily losing the case, when a lawsuit or criminal action was later filed. Discovery sanctions are getting more common from courts who are getting pissed at companies not preserving stuff that should have been preserved. Look at what happened to DISH Networks recently in the DOJ case against them.

Re:Backfire (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#43634573)

If you'd looked at the link, you'd have seen that the patent specifically states "If the textual phrase matches a phrase in the database, the user is alerted via an in-line notification, based on the detected context of the electronic document." The patent has nothing to do with checking emails after they're sent, much less deleting them. It's for a system that would notify the user that they just typed something that the program thinks is suspicious so that the user has a chance to re-think what they're saying before hitting send.

Re:Backfire (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43634661)

If such a system was in use that resulted in deleted e-mails, it would almost certainly result in sanctions from a court, up to and including "death-knell" sanctions of summarily losing the case, when a lawsuit or criminal action was later filed. Discovery sanctions are getting more common from courts who are getting pissed at companies not preserving stuff that should have been preserved. Look at what happened to DISH Networks recently in the DOJ case against them.

it wouldn't exactly delete evidence, it would prevent it from being made in the first place.

Plain Evil (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43634447)

If Google have that information, US government agencies have access to it as well, and will use it, even if you don't belong to any company. And definately would call evil any patent/company that basically forbids joking [theblaze.com]

Re:Plain Evil (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#43634721)

First, you clearly didn't bother looking at the linked information. The patent is about notifying the user when they type something in order to give them the chance to reconsider what they're writing. There's nothing stored at that point, which is the entire point of the patent; notifying users that they're about to violate company policy before the email gets stored and becomes a legal liability to the company.

Second, if Google's patented algorithm had been in place and had "destroy America" in the dictionary, the guy writing the tweet would have been notified after typing the phrase that he was about to tweet something that would get flagged and reviewed by the DHS. Assuming he took the advice, it would have prevented the idiots at DHS from ever seeing the joking tweet and the stupidity that followed would never have happened. That's hardly evil.

tl;dr That's not what the patent is about. Don't blame Google's patent for the DHS's stupidity.

Re:Plain Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634899)

The patent is about notifying the user when they type something in order to give them the chance to reconsider what they're writing. There's nothing stored at that point...

How trusting you are. Do you really believe that the system wouldn't log that "GrumpySteen typed a phrase that matched string x in the database and was warned. GrumpySteen changed the note before sending and it no longer matches string x"? Because one of the things you would do with this system is to re-educate serial "almost offenders" to keep them from typing these phrases in the first place. You also need to understand the effectiveness / intrusiveness of the tool - so if it never logged anything, management would not have any way to say, "see, we saved xxxx number of discoverable emails by implementing this system". Trust me, it will log information before send.

Re:Plain Evil (1)

dr2chase (653338) | about a year ago | (#43634929)

It cannot log the specifics of the information, since that defeats the entire point of avoiding a discoverable record of evil. The most it can do is count the number of times someone was warned, preferably at a very coarse granularity so that spikes in warnings cannot be correlated with other business activity.

Or avoid being stupidly evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635199)

Just look at Illinois and what former governor Blaggy did. If he didn't use the phone and email, and worked out the deal with Jesse Jackson Jr. in person while out fishing on a boat, during a golf outing, or at the table of campaign contributor's private dinner function, it's unlikely he would be in jail right now. There are plenty of other politicians are deserving of being in the same kind of spot, but they know enough not to leave an obvious record of the kind of deals that are "fucking golden!"

Google Document Shredder? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#43634453)

For a second there I thought they were patenting not being evil as a business process or something and I thought "Damn! Guess I'm just going to have to keep being evil!" But they're really just trying to patent not being caught at it. Not getting caught is actually pretty easy as long as you don't have dumbasses in your company. So maybe Google should invent a technology to jettison the dumbasses in your company into the sun! Except, I suppose that would be pretty evil. Maybe I should patent that! It'd go nicely alongside the death ray patent...

Re:Google Document Shredder? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#43634483)

Someone not quite so suspicious would also envision this being used to catch any problems early so they could be stopped before they become a big problem; a dumb-ass detection system if you will.

Re:Google Document Shredder? (0)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#43634627)

If you are not suspicious about Google you are not paying attention.

Re:Google Document Shredder? (2)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43635009)

Pretty much. Arthur Anderson, Enron accountants, were toast because they were dumb. They did not have a policy for data retention. If they, for instance, had a policy for deleting email every year, then they would have been able to continue to delete even when rumors of a federal investigation reached them until that investigation became formal. As it was they panicked.

But really this has nothing to do with that. It has to do with people treating email like phone conversations, which are generally not subject to anything beyond traffic analysis, and often have significant privacy differentials. Phone calls are generally not recorded, and if they are they are not as easily mined. So it is may be useful to screen the emails on the assumption that the text will be mined. In fact I have seen products like this before, and given legal liability, am surprised they are not in use more.

The issue may be a 50% failure rate after the fact is acceptable, but if one is rejected 50% of outgoing email as inappropriate, and users do not see the point, then they will just circumvent the system. It is better just to train, monitor, discipline, and delete, as in done with other communications.

Re:Google Document Shredder? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#43636301)

I am going to have to disagree with you here. Enron went down because the company had been hollowed out, not because of any evidence.

The charges that were levied and stuck against Arthur Anderson was the destruction of evidence. There were cleared of most of the other charges (after they had closed shop.) No, what Arthur Anderson did was lazy shoddy work, helping their clients maneuver the grey areas. They would have been in a lot better shape if they had not shredded the evidence.

And the accountants at Enron were not brought down my e-mails or any such thing. The accountants responsible where a close tight group.

Sounds illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634469)

Sounds like an automation of sarbox violations.

Re:Sounds illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635047)

Funny, sounded more like "lets try and catch such illegal activities before they happen" to me.

Hey can we get some slush fund money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634477)

to take care of the guys in the Ministry who have been holding up this deal? That's just the way things are done over there, you know those Elbonians. A bunch of our other cycles have been drawn out and Larry and Sergei are concerned about the quarter, but if we get revenue recognition on this I think we can pull it out.

j/k

give me 6 lines written by the most honest man... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634485)

and I will find something in them to have him hanged.

The problem with constant surveillance and logging is that it doesn't matter what you say. It just takes coming to the attention of someone in power to get yourself fired, bankrupted, imprisoned or worse.

And that is why anonymity is the only defense against power. As long as the powerful people think they need to maintain a facade of "legitimacy" then they can't punish people at random. And that is why powerful interests are working so hard to remove the ability of individuals to remain anonymous.

The only way that true freedom will exist in the future is if there is a global communication network that isn't under the control of any government or corporation.

Not Do No Evil (1)

Apu de Beaumarchais (2023822) | about a year ago | (#43634551)

How hard is it to not confuse "don't be evil" and "do no evil"? They're allowed to do evil as long as they're still "good".

Submitter seeks.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634557)

... excuses to troll.

"Methods and systems for identifying problematic phrases in an electronic document, such as an e-mail, are disclosed. A context of an electronic document may be detected. A textual phrase entered by a user is captured. The textual phrase is compared against a database of phrases previously identified as being problematic phrases. If the textual phrase matches a phrase in the database, the user is alerted via an in-line notification, based on the detected context of the electronic document. "

Yep so its some crappy patent to detect phrases found problematic (e.g. Ghetto upsets Jewish people, "Taiwan upsets Chinese, "Palestine" upsets Israelis etc.) and warns the author of the problem. Big deal.

Obvious patent in common use, and should be denied.

Also business processes like this, should never have been allowed, US Joke of a Patent Office.

This Service Has Existed For A Decade Or More (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634603)

I'm sure Google will get their patent due to the pathetic state of our PTO, but the finance industry has had companies offering this exact service for at least ten years. There's a huge body of prior art.

No obvious evil? (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#43634609)

So, if you can't Do-No-Evil, at least you can Do-No-Discoverable-Evil!"

If the policy is evil, this would become the Do-No-Discoverable-Good patent, and we have enough of that already.

Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634617)

If someone creates a technology other people will find a way to overcome or circumvent it. This has been the way of humankind since the beginning. When are we going to learn that the fight (whether it be against terrorism, gun violence, or policy violations) is really happening between peoples' ears? The most effective weapon we have is culture and ideology.

Proofreading (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year ago | (#43634709)

Not sure how well their invention works when the have mistakes in the patent. Maybe they should have a person read these things.

As businesses glow, the number of documents in a business rises exponentially

Re:Proofreading (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43635065)

The better to see them with, my deer.

Re:Proofreading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43637331)

"to compare an captured phrase"

Not to mention the word 'embodiment' is used over and over and fucking over.

You are Sadly Mistaken (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634749)

If you really think that the government is NOT already scanning all email, communications and cell phones, you are sadly mistaken! When you read about the issues with ISP providers allowing access to their backbone data, you can be certain that they already had the servers up and running that was already searching and alerting on internet traffic. Otherwise, such access is Pointless!
Aside from that, simply alerting on phrases out of context is pointless! Nearly everything can be deemed wrong with no context to put it in.
* As a network admin though, only positive I would like is: That perhaps they can put a stop to persons forwarding every Hoax, Scam and Phishing scam to all the persons in their email list!

Google Glass tapes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43634907)

One day someone will sue Google and their lawyers will subpoena the entire archive of Google Glass videos shot at Mtn View HQ.

Patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635073)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_loss_prevention_software does this.

To quote Elliot Spitzer... (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | about a year ago | (#43635285)

> Never talk when you can nod and never nod when you can wink and never write an
> e-mail, because it's death. You're giving prosecutors all the evidence we need.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Eliot_Spitzer [wikiquote.org]

Those phrase databases are a nice target. (1)

Linkreincarnate (840046) | about a year ago | (#43635475)

Wnt to know imiideately what a company is up too. Look for unusual database filters...

Autoblackmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635565)

I wonder if this system will automatically alert Google when something incriminating has been written, as well as by and to whom.

Being able to rat out and stop corruption sure would be nice, but letting the sender know you are keeping it a secret - that could be very profitable.

What is Google's definition of "Evil"? (1)

Horshu (2754893) | about a year ago | (#43635637)

Seriously.

Well, if this inspires the rise of p2p messaging (1)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#43635783)

I am all for it. I would like to see unencrypted and/or server-based communications go away completely.

1984, Demolition Man... Policy Nazi's Rejoice! (1)

bussdriver (620565) | about a year ago | (#43636337)

Grammar Nazi are nothing... Have you worked with a Policy Nazi? Or some annoying twit who recites company policy or P.C. norms all the time?

At least Microsoft isn't doing it... We'd get Clippy the friendly policy helper who'd pop up just before we send each email with suggestions... "Can I help you rephrase that?" "Are you sure? HR will be notified..."

Me, I envision a cold war communist characterization -with a Russian accent: "Comrade, don't raise suspicions! Rethink the phrase..."

Google is evil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43635829)

It's official. Google has become evil. It empowers the company over us, the people.

Google never had a "do no evil" policy (1)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#43635837)

Google's policy has always been "don't be evil". Not "do no evil". This is substantially different. It gives them a lot of leeway to do some evil stuff, and still be subjectively non-evil.
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