We’ve all come to rely on spell-checkers that correct misspellings as we type. Now, Google has filed a patent for a tool that seems like an evil-checker: a software system that could prevent people from writing out, in electronic correspondence and documents, phrases that run afoul of policies or laws.
Google’s proposed “Policy Violation Checker” would allow software to peek over peoples’ shoulders while they type to alert individuals — and potentially their employers — when their written text contained “problematic phrases” that “present policy violations, have legal implications, or are otherwise troublesome to a company, business, or individual,” according to the patent filing.
The tool recalls Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s controversial advice to people worried about their un-erasable digital trail online: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know,” Schmidt advised in a 2010 interview, “Maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Google seems to have followed through on Schmidt’s thinking with software that stops people before they make ill-advised digital disclosures — or will tattle on them if they do.
With Policy Violation Checker, Big Brother isn’t just watching you. He’s getting some control over what you write.
In the patent application, Google details a process that would allow its algorithms to automatically detect troublesome text by comparing the writing to a database of phrases previously identified as “problematic.” The tool could not only inform a person that they’ve written something that violates protocol, it could also tell an individual why she’s run afoul of the rules, suggest alternate wording that would be less risky and, crucially, alert third parties to the violation.
Read the rest at Huffington Post