With the start of 2020, there is a ton of conversation on what the new decade has in store and reflections on the past. Mark Zuckerberg has been one of the louder voices to join the discussion, and as a big fish in the industry, his remarks have reverberated around the community. In his essay, published on Facebook, Zuckerberg stated that “The technology platform of the 2010s was the mobile phone. The platform of the 2000s before that was about the web, and the 1990s was the desktop computer.” However, his assertion that “breakthrough augmented reality glasses that will redefine our relationship with technology”, has stirred up the most dialogue. (Although Zuckerberg uses the term “glasses”, the essay clarifies that they signify a concept rather than a concrete rendition of eyewear.)
For an eDiscovery professional, an initial reaction to this would be the consideration of new sources of potentially discoverable data and the impact on the EDRM process. Augmented reality (AR) “glasses” could take many different forms and have the potential to affect many aspects of the discovery process.
By default, AR glasses would cause a massive influx of data produced per individual using them. In order to provide an augmented experience of an individual’s surroundings, the technology would constantly be processing environmental stimuli. This translates to around the clock collection, storage, and use of data.
That being said, not only will there be astronomically more metadata in general, but it may also look different. As metadata is “data about data”, it has the possibility to encompass more than just dates or locations. Taking this into account, deciding which data can be deemed “discoverable” will be necessary.
In the 2010s, discovery technology was swift to adapt to widespread cell phone use and increased global communications, which introduced a huge onslaught data per person. In response, Technology-Assisted Review (TAR) was developed and continually optimized to assist in processing and classifying huge amounts of data. So, of course, tangential AR technology will be developed accordingly and become more accessible, as the experience curve takes effect.
Impact on the EDRM Process
Another angle would be the potential of new AR technology to change the traditional operations of the EDRM process. In Zuckerberg’s essay, he mentions the possibility for all work to be done remotely when the technology allows for the ability to be “present” from anywhere. In document review, it is commonplace to assemble a highly-specialized and localized review team under extremely tight time constraints. Stemming from Zuckerberg’s predictions, one opportunity for improvement would be in optimizing the assembly of document review teams and the completion of their tasks efficiently and effectively. AR technology would allow review teams to be geographically decentralized, while team managers would be able to maintain involvement virtually to ensure overall productivity, security, and internal controls.
As it is poised to become a large source of many different types of data, AR is going to play a significant role in all stages of discovery — from collection to production. Furthermore, considerations of risk mitigation and budget constraints go hand in hand with the potential that AR technology has to offer. Any reductions in liability and cost are attractive to decision-makers, but even when propositioned with evidence of process improvement and increased data security — agreement to widespread, organizational implementation is easier said than done. However, eDiscovery professionals must keep in mind that ignoring AR technology is not a luxury they can afford.
Playing Legal Catch-Up
Zuckerberg also brings information governance into question, when mentioning walking the line between “free expression and safety, or between privacy and law enforcement, or between creating open systems and locking down data and access.” As an outspoken advocate of freedom of speech, he argues that regulation establishing clearer rules on what’s acceptable on the web will be in order. But, as he also mentioned, the 2000s were about the web, yet here in 2020, the best way of governing the web is still in question.
As AR glasses will be constantly collecting and processing sensory data, the questions of law and ethics will come into play. When the AR technology becomes ubiquitous, as predicted by Zuckerberg, where is the line drawn for who controls this data? How can this data be used by both businesses and in a court of law? It may seem that the law is slow to catch up with advancements in technology, as much of the internet still remains largely unregulated. However, anything less than swift technology and data regulation could lead to the wild west of AR technology.
In taking Zuckerberg’s predictions to heart, several opportunities for process optimization present themselves, as do logistical gaps in both technology and regulation. Technology implementation in eDiscovery is widely seen as the means to an end. AR speeds up this process and pushes aside convention, resulting in frameshifts in both discovery and technology. Accounting for these changes is absolutely necessary, and Zuckerberg wraps up his essays by suggesting that it can be best done through structural regulation and adaptation.