Originally posted 2013-05-21 10:55:34.
By Sohyeon Lee | amdlawgroup.com
On 2 May 2013, Google filed a patent application for Policy Violation Checker— a system that detects problematic phrases in electronic documents. The purpose of this system is to prevent phrases that could potentially violate company policies or cause legal conflicts for businesses and individuals.
In 2010, when Goldman Sach’s internal correspondences was released to an external source, the company’s executive could have benefited from this application and avoided ill-reputable court appearance. The email exchanges included the phrase “shitty deal” in reference to a negotiation with their client, which revealed their dishonest intention to proceed with the business despite their awareness of the unworthy offer.
Although Goldman Sach’s case is an extreme example, where the public embarrassment could have been easily avoided with a use of a little self-reflection, Google’s patent idea aims to prevent similar and unintentional policy violations.
Google’s patent application states, “It is in the best interest of companies to prevent violations of company policy or laws before they occur. As businesses grow, the number of documents in a business rises exponentially, and the potential that a particular document may implicate a violation of law or company policy grows. Business employees often knowingly or unknowingly discuss actions that could potentially lead to violations of company policy, such as a confidentiality policy, or run afoul of the law.”
Policy Violation Checker stores previously recognized problematic phrases, matches them with new statements in documents and notifies the users. This system, which is applicable for documentation software and applications such as e-mail, spreadsheet, and word processors, suggests alternative wordings that could reduce the risk of running into situations where the document could be used against the person or the company for legal reasons. Additionally, the system can simultaneously send the notified document to the legal department of the company for further review.
While Google’s new idea is noted for its close resemblance to the spell-check function and convenience factor, Policy Violation Checker raises concerns about reduced privacy and increased access to personal documents by multiple authorities within a company that uses this system.
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