Briefing Notes: 5 Questions about Big Data for Attorneys and E-Discovery Professionals

I recently provide a briefing to a group of e-discovery professionals about Big Data and why it matters to them, and I thought there might be some value in sharing my notes.

1. What is Big Data?

  • Gartner: Big data is high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision-making.

  • McKinsey: ‘Big data’ refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyze. This definition is intentionally subjective . . .

  • It is subjective, but has definable elements

    • The data itself: large, unstructured information

    • The infrastructure: “Internet scale” in the enterprise

    • The analysis: Asking questions using very large data sets

2. Why Does Big Data Matter to E-Discovery Professionals?

  • Data scientists and technologists do not understand the risk side of information

  • You need to be at the table to educate them on:

    • The legal and business value of deleting information

    • The privacy requirements and implications

    • E-Discovery implications of too much data

  • The technologies of Big Data may process and manipulate information in a way that affects their accessibility and evidentiary value –  you need to be aware of this and guide your clients appropriately

3. Does Big Data offer value to the legal community?

  • Performing sophisticated analysis on large pools of data is not exclusive to any particular industry –  there is no reason it could not be applied to the legal community (and already is being used in some limited ways)

  • Relatively speaking, most law firms do not generate massive amounts of data in their day-to-day operations

  • In e-discovery, the technology innovations of Big Data could be helpful in very large cases to help with storage and processing tasks

4. What are some examples of Big Data in action?

  • President Obama’s data-driven election campaign.

  • An online travel company showing more expensive travel options to those who used higher-prices Macintosh computers to access their website.

  • Tracking unreported side effects of drugs using search data (Journal of American Medical Association). Also Google Flu Trends: tracking the spread of the flu using search trends.

  • NYPD Compstat.

  • Fraud Detection: Targeting $3.5 trillion in fraud from banking, healthcare utilities, and government.

  • The City of New York finding those responsible for dumping cooking oil and grease into the sewers by analysing  data from the Business Integrity Commission, a city agency that certifies that all local restaurants have a carting service to haul away their grease. With a few quick calculations, comparing restaurants that did not have a  carter with geo-spatial data on the sewers, they generate a list of statistically likely suspects to track down dumpers with a 95% success rate.

5. What professional and career opportunities does Big Data represent for e-discovery professionals?

  • Organizations need people who understand the risk side of the equation and who can provide practical guidance

  • Your clients may have Big Data projects that right now, today, are creating unmonitored, unmitigated risk; you need to be able to help them identify and manage that risk

  • Big Data focuses on unstructured information, i.e., the documents, email messages and other information that the e-discovery community knows well. These same skills and techniques can be very useful to business-led Big Data projects.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Big Data: Big Value or just Big Trouble? | EMC SourceOne Insider

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s