Once again we had many news items this week, so we are posting a second round-up. We found a number of legal technology projects attempting to change the way laws are made, interpreted, and complied with far into the future.

Legal Technology:

  • How will lawmaking, legal education, and legal practice look in fifty years? If Lexis and Westlaw (and Lexis Advance and Westlaw Next) changed the game with search and lookup, and word processors changed the game for attorneys, who’s to say the evolution of our professions has stopped, or even slowed? Several projects raise interesting ideas which,  if adopted, might change the landscape again, by adding structure to the law earlier in the process, reducing reliance on Westlaw, Lexis, and similar legal service providers. While they pioneered legal reporting and structured analysis, there is no long-term reason the public sector cannot also build legal frameworks for the digital age. Some projects in this area are:
    1. The Hammurabi Project aims to implement as much of the US Code in the programming language C# as possible, thereby simplifying the logical complexity of the law (though not its inherent linguistic vagueness). This is essentially what tax software does for tax laws and regulations, but there are many other areas of law where automatically expressing logical if-then conclusions would be of benefit. One proposed use is even to allow governments to publish authoritative, executable versions of their laws, along with the textual code. [H/T Zac Loney]
    2. LegalXML, a member of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, develops technical standards(based on Akoma Ntoso, below) for expressing the logical structure and content of many types of legal documents, including statutes, legislative history, debates, court opinions, and contracts. It is also developing a standard format for describing legal rules, norms, and arguments, so they can be exchanged and evaluated either automatically or by a person using tools to evaluate and respond to them more efficiently.
    3. Akoma Ntoso (“linked hearts” in Akan language of West Africa) is another project developing XML schemas for legislative and judicial documents, aiming at defining a ”lingua franca”, facilitating long term storage, including common metadata, while being as self-explanatory and extensible as possible. This is a joint project of the Africa i-Parliaments initiative and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which may or may not mean it has staying power and sufficient legal expertise to generate some long-term value for legal researchers and practitioners. Here’s an example of a court case structured using Akoma Ntoso’s schema (which strikes me as something very similar to what WestLaw and Lexis must have on their software back ends):

Information Security:

  • A federal court in California held that general liability insurance in California covers the cost of responding to a data breach. In this case, HIPAA-protected medical information was exposed on a publicly accessible website for more than a year. [H/T @HCCSdavid]
  • Some worry that the federal government shutdown could delay software patch deployment for some government systems, leaving known vulnerabilities unfixed. Several recent patches from Adobe and Microsoft fix flaws that have been actively exploited in the wild. Meanwhile, information security experts question the quality of code and the security practices used to build the primary insurance exchange website under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”). [H/T SANS]
  • Russian police arrest a man they say is behind the development of the BlackHole software toolkit, which is popular with cyber criminals. [H/TSANS]

Technology & Crime:

  • One of the top ‘bullet-proof’ hosting companies in the world, which specialized in hosting viruses and malware, goes bankrupt and closes.
  • Futility Closet highlights the limits of DNA identification when identical twins are suspected of a crime.
  • Was the criminal complaint in the Silk Road take-down a case of ‘parallel construction,’ thereby disguising the actual course of the investigation?
  • A Nordstrom department store in Florida found skimmers — devices used to steal credit card information — installed on many of its cash registers.

–Brad Edmondson

Image Source 1 (coffee)

Image Source 2 (Akoma Ntoso)

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