Creepy: Email Scanning System Watches to Predict Data Theft

By William Peacock, Esq. on October 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Data theft and breaches are always a hot topic around here. They are, after all, an in-house attorney's worst nightmare: Lawsuits, lost business, and a whole lot of legal fees will wreak havoc on your bottom line if you have a data leak. But what if there was a way to predict data theft before it happened, a la Tom Cruise's "Minority Report"? Sure, you'd have to worry about outside hackers ruining your day, but at least mutiny and sabotage would be covered.

That's what UBIC's Virtual Data Scientist promises. It has the ability to scan users' email to find common harbingers of data theft, such as complaints about how the company treats them or about one's financial problems, reports PC World. And while the program is currently Japanese-only, it may make it stateside in the near future.

Why This Is Awesome

Uh, duh: It predicts data theft. And data theft is a huge problem. PC World cites a recent incident in Japan where an engineer walked out with a list of 20.7 million customers of Benesse, the parent company of Berlitz language schools in Japan. It's hard to put a price on internal data theft alone -- most figures we could find include external and internal threats -- but it's a massive (and growing) problem nonetheless.

And if you can predict it, and turn a watchful eye towards likely thieves (just in case), why would you not?

Why This Is Creepy and Awful

Have you ever been falsely accused of something? It sucks. And you might end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy or otherwise damaging morale if you start stalking employees that are already stressed by finances or working conditions.

Many people have financial stressors, sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent. And many people get frustrated about their working conditions and vent over email. The artificial intelligence better be very intelligent, otherwise you're going to be getting a lot of false positives.

Can You Use This?

Probably. Most corporate computer use or email policies warn users that the company has a right to monitor their activities.

But imagine the fallout, morale-wise, if you try to take action on an employee for maybe, possibly, having a tendency to be someday think about stealing your data. Or better yet, just watch "Minority Report." That film alone should convince you that this is a bad idea.

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