Thomson Reuters is coming to Legal Week in New York with a Watson enabled Data Privacy product to show off at the annual legal technology conference. Today they are announcing the launch of a sophisticated global data privacy product which provides news, regulatory comparison charts, commentary and a Watson Enabled AI product that answers questions.  This is the first legal product to be produced by the Thomson Reuters- IBM Watson collaboration  which was announced In October 2016. Thomson Reuters is buttressing the importance of this product by simultaneously releasing the “Thomson Reuters Survey of Data Privacy Compliance.” According to the survey “data compliance” costs the average U.S. organization $2.1 M/yr.   64% of U.S. survey respondents have faced a privacy enforcement action and 52% report that they are struggling to keep up with privacy regulations. In addition the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation which goes into effect in May 2018 will further complicate the regulatory environment.

The Data Privacy Advisor

The Data Privacy Advisor was designed for data privacy experts at multinational law firms and organizations facing data privacy compliance, incident response and litigation.

Features include:

  • Global statutory and regulatory materials including pending legislation and regulations, data privacy country guides for 80+ jurisdictions, the full GDPR library, and Practical Law know-how content directed to global legal and program management issues. This contact can be browsed or queried with keywords or explored using “ask Watson.” In addition, users can generate jurisdictional comparison charts for specific issues.
  • Ask Watson a Question   IBM Watson-enabled technology that allows users to ask relevant “natural language” questions and receive a full-sentence answer
  • Curated news analysis and content from over 800 date privacy blogs.
  • Related Concepts  a feature designed to help users discover additional insights that otherwise might go unnoticed, also enabled by Watson.

    Ask Watson a Question

The Ask Watson a Question feature was trained by experts to answer thousands of question/answer pairs. “Our first step was to teach Watson the language of law,” said Khalid Al-Kofahi, vice president of Research Development at Thomson Reuters and head of its Center for Cognitive Computing. A combination of attorney editors from the Thomson Reuters Practical Law team and research scientists, taught Watson to understand the nuance of legal concepts from simple definitions, such as “parties” or “organizations,” to data privacy “terms of art.” During the training process, more than 60,000 Q&A pairs generated by Watson were “graded” by privacy professionals as well as Thomson Reuters and IBM Watson experts. This iterative process helped the system learn and provide increasingly refined responses. “Adding the AI capability from Watson to our own in-house AI expertise made a true collaboration between our teams to help Watson understand the law and the context of the questions – not just memorize the questions and answers – so the platform truly helps data privacy professionals find the answers they need,” Al-Kofahi added. Watson has been trained on data privacy issues in 84 jurisdictions. Answers  are accompanied by a confidence rating. The caveat is that many questions don’t have single sentence answers. Answers are accompanied by related concepts for researchers to explore.

Innovation has been our lifeblood for more than 100 years,” said Susan Taylor Martin, president of the Thomson Reuters Legal business. “Data Privacy Advisor is a great example of how we’ve brought together our global content, domain expertise and distinctive technology to meet the needs of legal and compliance professionals.”

The Data Privacy Advisor will be a standalone product for specialists and will be sold in the U.S. U.K. and Canadian markets.

What Questions Can You Ask this Product – Managing Customer Expectations

How is this different from Westlaw Answers?   In 2016 Westlaw  released a  new feature called Westlaw Answers which does not involve any cognitive technology. It was created by human editors at Thomson Reuters who identified common state level “black letter law” question and answer pairs. A natural language inquiry provides an answer statement which  which links to a primary source. Westlaw Answers  Westlaw has provided provided some fairly clear parameters regarding the type of questions appropriate for Westlaw Answers. Westlaw Answers can provide  answers to  state law questions such as identifying  judicially defined terms , statutes of limitations and “black letter” law.

I did not come away from the Data Privacy Advisor demo with a clear understanding of the type of questions the “Ask Watson” feature can handle. Al-Kofahi’s responded that Watson cannot provide answers to complex questions. By implication this means that it can answer simple questions, but what type of simple questions. A word of advice –  I recommend managing customer expectations by providing some clarity around the right kind of questions to ask Watson. But even for complex questions, the product will deliver the most relevant documents.


Legal AI is Not a Slam DunkThis should be obvious with the low numbers of AI enabled legal research products on the market. In a prior post “Dear Watson, I have a Question for You!…... I noted the complexity of law which lacks a  taxonomy of  universally defined terms — unlike medicine where the symptoms of a disease do not vary by state or country. In the U, S, each state has it’s own definitions which are defined in statutes, regulations and case law. Now expand that to the world… and you begin to see the brain numbing challenge of legal AI.  It is no mean feat that TR and Watson have developed  a Question and Answer product that has learned the statutes and regulations of 89 jurisdictions — on  slice of law as complex as “data privacy.”

Competition Thomson Reuters is not the first legal publisher to tackle data privacy. They may well have leapfrogged to the top of the heap by being the first to offer a product enhanced with AI. Several months ago Wolters Kluwer released it’s Cybersecurity and & Privacy Law Suite. BloombergBNA Law launched  Bloomberg Law:Privacy and Data Security in 2015. In addition, a number of Amlaw 100 law firms including DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Hunton & Williams, have also developed specialized data protection apps.