- Product Trial
Editor’s Note: This is a guest article by Andreea-roxana Obreja. Andreea graduated from the University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom with a First Class Honours Degree in Business Information Systems. Her personal interest for covert data and online research have inspired her to author a comprehensive review of the potential of the Deep Web as a business tool for her final year project. The project has been awarded the Clever Touch Prize for the most Original Business Systems Project by the University of Portsmouth. The conclusions of her project will be presented at the 12th Conference of the Italian Chapter of AIS at the Sapienza University of Rome.
We might be using the “Deep Web” every day without calling it this way or even being aware of its existence. Simply filling in a web form enables us to access the Deep Web and retrieve data from a variety of databases, some of which are free, subscription-based or have major access costs attached. Any online data used for business purposes (not necessarily the same purposes for which it has been collected) can be risky, but not knowing what data there is out there about you and your company represents a significantly higher threat. On the other hand, a thorough, Deep Web search can greatly benefit companies researching competitors, potential employees, customers and business trends.
There are various types of data that can be accessed using intermediate technical skills and a few Deep Web resources: information customers share about the organisation and its products, information employees share about their jobs, products they are working on and company strategy/policies. More importantly, data aggregated from publicly-available databases can reveal costly, confidential information.
In terms of resources, an initial Deep Web exploration does not imply major investment or require a team of highly skilled IT developers. Freely available tools such as DWT’s Biznar represent an excellent starting point to explore a variety of authoritative business databases for a real-time search. Other subject-specific publicly available search portals include Mednar for medical researchers or WorldWideScience.org for scientific information. This kind of exploration can be learnt and done in-house with minimum resources and can save your company many hours of online searching using traditional search engines. For on-demand searches, constant monitoring of specific databases and alerts, commercial applications such as those powered by Explorit Everywhere! can facilitate the use of a targeted Deep Web search strategy, advise on the content that needs monitoring and provide a unified access point to all the necessary data sources.
Going back to the types of data that might be made visible through Deep Web resources without its owner being aware, currently, intellectual property on the Deep Web is a matter under scrutiny. While traditional search engines might only take into account the big picture, trying to match your search terms in the title, abstract and key words; Deep Web tools can perform fully comprehensive searches. Apart from monitoring your own patents, inventions and discoveries online, this could save your company money by preventing you from becoming a litigation target after mistakenly infringing on other company’s intellectual property rights.
The ubiquitous availability of social media applications and people’s urge to share data have led to extensive concerns in terms of how much data about your company are your employees and customers disclosing. Social media enables the creation of enormous amounts of data which is not easily to search and interpret. Most of this data is stored in dynamical databases which are not indexed by traditional Surface Web search engines. This means that they are part of the Deep Web and sometimes only protected by the individual’s privacy settings. With the right Deep Web tools, anyone can monitor the details that customers share about the products, purchasing experience and the customer’s general attitude towards the organisation. More than monitoring various data sources in isolation, aggregating them can reveal new information or give a renewed meaning to the existing (most of the time, publicly-available) one. Cautiousness is advised when aggregating data that has been collected by another organisation as its processing might breach data protection regulation.
On the negative side of things, sheltered by a fake username and encouraged by a number of followers, anyone can express an opinion about the organisation on social media which is going to demand a sum of resources to trace, challenge or prove wrong. More dangerously, the ease of creating and sharing content challenges the employees’ obligation to comply with the company’s non-disclosure policies, making social media sites an ideal source of data about company difficulties, new products or future strategy. Constant monitoring and awareness of these breaches can help the company reinforce policies and put in place contingency plans in order to contain the damages.
Even if you feel that traditional online research tools provide you with all the data necessary to your business activities, Deep Web datasources can no longer be ignored. The Deep Web, and its renowned subset, the Dark Web, is significantly larger compared to the Surface Web and due to its vastness, its content cannot always be monitored or regulated. Being aware of its existence and acquiring technology to monitor your presence and the data about you on it, or to monitor your competitors, might prove beneficial in a market where competitive intelligence is a critical component to success.
Summary based on ‘The business potential of the Deep Web for SMEs’ published as a final year undergraduate project for the University of Portsmouth, UK
Editor’s Note: This is a guest article by Lisa Brownlee. The 2015 edition of her book, “Intellectual Property Due Diligence in Corporate Transactions: Investment, Risk Assessment and Management”, originally published in 2000, will dive into discussions about using the Deep Web and the Dark Web for Intellectual Property research, emphasizing its importance and usefulness when performing legal due-diligence.
Lisa M. Brownlee is a private consultant and has become an authority on the Deep Web and the Dark Web, particularly as they apply to legal due-diligence. She writes and blogs for Thomson Reuters. Lisa is an internationally-recognized pioneer on the intersection between digital technologies and law.
In this blog post I will delve in some detail into the Deep Web. This expedition will focus exclusively on that part of the Deep Web that excludes the Dark Web. I cover both Deep Web and Dark Web legal due diligence in more detail in my blog and book, Intellectual Property Due Diligence in Corporate Transactions: Investment, Risk Assessment and Management. In particular, in this article I will discuss the Deep Web as a resource of information for legal due diligence.
When Deep Web Technologies invited me to write this post, I initially intended to primarily delve into the ongoing confusion regarding Deep Web and Dark Web terminology. The misuse of the terms Deep Web and Dark Web, among other related terms, are problematic from a legal perspective if confusion about those terms spills over into licenses and other contracts and into laws and legal decisions. The terms are so hopelessly intermingled that I decided it is not useful to even attempt untangling them here. In this post, as mentioned, I will specifically cover the Deep Web excluding the Dark Web. The definitions I use are provided in a blog post I wrote on the topic earlier this year, entitled The Deep Web and the Dark Web – Why Lawyers Need to Be Informed.
Deep Web: a treasure trove of and data and other information
The Deep Web is populated with vast amounts of data and other information that are essential to investigate during a legal due diligence in order to find information about a company that is a target for possible licensing, merger or acquisition. A Deep Web (as well as Dark Web) due diligence should be conducted in order to ensure that information relevant to the subject transaction and target company is not missed or misrepresented. Lawyers and financiers conducting the due diligence have essentially two options: conduct the due diligence themselves by visiting each potentially-relevant database and conducting each search individually (potentially ad infinitum), or hire a specialized company such as Deep Web Technologies to design and setup such a search. Hiring an outside firm to conduct such a search saves time and money.
Deep Web data mining is a science that cannot be mastered by lawyers or financiers in a single or a handful of transactions. Using a specialized firm such as DWT has the added benefit of being able to replicate the search on-demand and/or have ongoing updated searches performed. Additionally, DWT can bring multilingual search capacities to investigations—a feature that very few, if any, other data mining companies provide and that would most likely be deficient or entirely missing in a search conducted entirely in-house.
What information is sought in a legal due diligence?
A legal due diligence will investigate a wide and deep variety of topics, from real estate to human resources, to basic corporate finance information, industry and company pricing policies, and environmental compliance. Due diligence nearly always also investigates intellectual property rights of the target company, in a level of detail that is tailored to specific transactions, based on the nature of the company’s goods and/or services. DWT’s Next Generation Federated Search is particularly well-suited for conducting intellectual property investigations.
In sum, the goal of a legal due diligence is to identify and confirm basic information about the target company and determine whether there are any undisclosed infirmities with the target company’s assets and information as presented. In view of these goals, the investing party will require the target company to produce a checklist full of items about the various aspects of the business (and more) discussed above. An abbreviated correlation between the information typically requested in a due diligence and the information that is available in the Deep Web is provided in the chart attached below. In the absence of assistance by Deep Web Technologies with the due diligence, either someone within the investor company or its outside counsel will need to search in each of the databases listed, in addition to others, in order to confirm the information provided by the target company is correct and complete. While representations and warranties are typically given by the target company as to the accuracy and completeness of the information provided, it is also typical for the investing company to confirm all or part of that information, depending on the sensitivities of the transaction and the areas in which the values–and possible risks might be uncovered.