Cherchez l’aiguille


Cherchez l’aiguille

ME PoV Fall 2017 issue

The Information Age has revolutionized our lives and the business world. Continued growth of the internet, falling costs of technology and growth of machine-generated data has led to exponential growth in the volumes of data, the variety of data sources and the speed at which data is generated.

This explosion of data is testing the ability of organizations to deal with regulatory inquiries, disputes, litigation and investigations, but with the use of the right technology, processes and people, these challenges can be more easily addressed.

Finding the needle in the haystack

Organizations are being faced with increasing challenges trying to adapt to the technological challenges as well as the ever-evolving legal and regulatory landscape. Failure to unearth the facts accurately and in a timely manner could result in significant financial and reputational damage as well as regulatory sanctions.

The answers to questions arising are often contained within business communications, legal documents and transactional data. Hidden deep within this data lie critical facts such as when did key events occur? Who were the key actors? What were the communications about? Discovery of such facts are pivotal when responding to regulatory requests or dealing with disputes or investigations—which is within the realm of electronic discovery (e-discovery) that deals with collection, processing and analysis of data for these purposes.

Establishing facts is not always quick or easy

In a recent example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was tasked with reviewing 650,000 emails of US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton in just eight days—that’s over 81,000 emails per day. A feat impossible without the use of latest technology and efficient workflows.

Smart wearables or home automation systems in our lives (Internet of Things) has led to an unprecedented growth in the variety of data sources that may become relevant in an investigation. Data from Fitbit and Amazon Echo devices played an important role in two recent murder investigations.

With increased adoption of cloud technologies, data could now be spread across various geographies and jurisdictions, thus exposing it to increased data privacy and mobility regulations. In a recent case, a major Internet search provider was ordered to “produce all content responsive to the search warrant that is retrievable from the United States, regardless of the data’s actual location.”1

Considering these examples, it must be clear that data is everywhere and has an increasingly undeniable impact in a variety of real-life scenarios.2

Tackling data challenges to discover facts

The answer to tackling data challenges is undoubtedly through technological advancements. The tools and techniques used for uncovering facts are also varied and advancing very rapidly.

Various investigation workflows can be utilized in order to tackle the challenges related to the growth in data volumes by reducing false positives. Visualizing the data in order to gain precise insights or utilizing efficient data organization workflows can play an important role in terms of volume and noise reduction. For instance, organizing email data in a way that the repeated email content within email chains are excluded from the manual review population (email threading), in other words only reviewing the latest email chain, can result in significant time and therefore cost savings.

What – With the advancements in technology, data is no longer viewed only as content, a string of words, but instead e-discovery platforms such as Relativity® or Brainspace™ can assist in gaining an understanding of the concepts/themes within the data through machine learning: what the data is about. Having a visual representation of this conceptual landscape also enables prioritizing/de-prioritizing data—it is like looking at a photo mosaic; you can see the big picture and you can drill down into its smaller components (See figure 1 on the next page). This conceptual understanding also enables searching the data based on conceptual meaning rather than just keywords; the system knows “tennis” is related to “sport”, or “spring” can have different meanings depending on the context. Moreover, by combining this understanding with training the system with human input, it is possible to ask the system to predict relevant documents in an automated fashion (predictive coding or technology-assisted review), which results in substantial time and cost savings.

When – Another important aspect of uncovering facts is building the timeline of events—the story is essentially a series of developments. Therefore, it is necessary to have the tools to understand the timeline of the data. For example, a timeline of the trending topics on Twitter can serve as a powerful tool to understand how events around the world develop over time. The same principle can be applied to business email data.

Who – When building a story from the data, it is also crucial to understand who is talking to whom (See figure 2 on the next page). Identifying key players and their roles by analyzing a company’s social network would provide valuable insights. According to Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, the power a person holds in the organization is inversely proportional to the number of keys on his keyring. A janitor has keys to every office, and yet has no power. Different algorithms allow for identifying different roles, as each could have varying importance depending on the scenario.


Cherchez l’aiguille
Looking into the future

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will increasingly become more advanced and ubiquitous. AI is already transforming numerous industries (an obvious example is how data is analyzed and insights are gathered) and has a direct impact on how facts are discovered for the purposes of litigation or investigations. The future of technology promises not only a better insight of what has happened or what could happen, technology will also prescribe solutions based on past events and possible future outcomes. For instance, it will be possible to build an in-depth understanding of the actors within the data by analyzing their communication patterns and prescribing solutions based on the behavioral trends.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ observation that “the only constant is change” has perhaps never been more pertinent.

In summary

The Information Age has, and continues to, transform the entire world in ways and speed that could not have been imagined. And this transformation has also come with major challenges; the increasingly complex digital world has an indisputable impact on the business environment, and combined with the ever-evolving legal and regulatory landscape, discovery of facts for the purposes of regulatory requests or disputes has also become more complex than ever. Failure to deal with this complexity can result in substantial financial and reputational damage. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to utilize the right technologies and deploy workflows based on precision and efficiency when dealing with data for legal or regulatory purposes.


by Andrew Pimlott, Partner, Forensic Services
and Boray Altunisler, Assistant Director, Forensic Services, Financial Advisory, Deloitte Middle East



  1. State of Connecticut v. Dabate, Case No. TTD -CR17-0110576-T and State of Arkansas v. James A. Bates, case number CR-2016-370-2
  2. In re: Search of Content that is Stored at Premises Controlled by Google, Case No. 16-80263 (N.D. Cali., Apr. 19, 2017)
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