Google has filed a patent for a feature that would watch what users are writing and alert them to when they might be violating policies (company, local, or even federal) with their content.
Dubbed the “Policy Violation Checker” in the patent filed May 2, the system would identify “problematic phrases” in documents like emails or other online documents run on Google’s Drive like presentations. But it’s not limited here. Google envisions the program being run through mobile devices, televisions, set-top boxes or other processors.
“A textual phrase entered by a user is captured. The textual phrase is compared against a database of phrases previously identified as being problematic phrases,” the abstract of the patent states. “If the textual phrase matches a phrase in the database, the user is alerted via an in-line notification, based on the detected context of the electronic document.”
In conducting such an analysis, Google believes it would be highlighting to the user text that might have legal implications or policy violations. These could range from company policies to local, state and federal laws.
“It is in the best interest of companies to prevent violations of company policy or laws before they occur,” Google states in the patent. “As businesses glow, 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.”
As the Slashdot user theodp wrote of the patent filing and a play on Google’s company slogan, “So, if you can’t Do-No-Evil, at least you can Do-No-Discoverable-Evil!”
Here’s an example Google provides showing how the Policy Violation Checker could be a useful too:
For example, a phrase in a document containing the words “project ABC is going to totally KILL company XYZ” could potentially give rise to an unfair competition claim. Similarly, a user may send an e-mail to a colleague stating “I will blog about our upcoming product,” which may violate a company’s confidentiality policy. In these examples, the database may contain the phrases “totally kill” and “upcoming product.” These examples are not meant to be limiting in any way, but merely to serve as examples of the entries in the database.
The database of “problematic phrases” would be customizable to meet the specific needs of different businesses.
All-in-all, the Policy Violation Checker concept seems like a proactive version of the FBI’s software that sought out certain phrases in emails that could indicate fraud.
The Huffington Post points out that there could be some concerns over how else such technology could be used if it ever came to fruition.
“Could Google flag pedophiles for the police? Could it thwart a politician’s extramarital affair, or alert a spouse to his wife’s indiscretions? Could it stop white supremacists or religious extremists from emailing with each other? And if the software could do those things, should it?” HuffPost questions.
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