Thought Leaders – Data 2022: David Kalat

Thought Leader

“David keeps his focus on the project goal and is a practical problem solver and effective manager” “His demeanour is highly credible in deposition and in the courtroom” “He is a well-rounded subject matter expert, combining technical knowledge, communication skills, project management and practical problem solving”

Questions & Answers

David Kalat is a professional investigator and a testifying expert in information science and electronic evidence. His work includes digital forensics, data analytics, and information security. Mr. Kalat is a certified fraud examiner, certified computer examiner, certified information systems security professional, certified telecommunications analyst, and a licensed private detective. Mr. Kalat has been qualified as an expert in electronic evidence and digital forensics in civil and criminal matters in state and US federal courts.

What motivated you to specialise a career as a data expert?

Data analysis and digital forensics satisfy my puzzle-solving interests. I’ve written before about how the game “Wordle” is derived from information theory, and in the same way that people start their days with a spark of joy playing Wordle, I get a continual thrill from working through the puzzles of complex analytics to solve my clients’ problems.

In what ways has AI affected “entropy” in data analytics?

The challenge that AI brings is that increasingly data is generated and/or processed by intelligent systems through what is functionally a “black box” about which we know little. Because so much of data analysis in civil consulting is concerned with making deductions about how systems work, this lack of transparency is problematic. I’m reminded of the famous cartoon by Sidney Harris where a scientist has written out a complex equation on a blackboard but the middle of the equation is just “then a miracle occurs.”

How has the notion of data privacy and cybersecurity from the regulators’ perspective developed over the past decade?

There’s a really interesting tension between data privacy and cybersecurity right now. On the one hand, regulatory pressure has increased on businesses to responsibly manage the personal data in their care—to minimise collecting personal data, limit the ways it is exploited, and so on. On the other, businesses face cybersecurity risks that are significantly influenced by individual users. Whatever high-tech solutions are deployed at an enterprise level to create a digital moat around an impenetrable fortress, we still give individual users inside that “castle” the ability to let strangers in the door. So we have this paradox where businesses are expected to protect individual personal data and individual persons are expected to protect business data. There’s an imbalance in that equation that still needs to get worked out.

What do clients look for in an effective data expert in today’s environment?

A lot of what we now think of as the field of data expertise was codified in the 2007 revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the creation of explicit expectations with respect to electronically stored information. Back in those “good old days” the landscape of data systems was more uniform and predicable than what we face today. To be a data expert today means being an expert in an ever-evolving environment of new technologies and unfamiliar platforms. Clients are looking for someone who can make sense out of that chaos, and keep the unique technological anomalies of each case from getting in the way.

What challenges has the shift to remote working presented from a digital forensic standpoint?

The shift to remote working corresponded to a shift to remote collections, which are actually more burdensome on the clients and individual subjects. In an on-site data collection scenario, the technologist is solely responsible for preserving the subject’s devices. In a remote collection scenario, however, the technologist is far from the device and dependent on the subject to perform any hands-on interactions. This is asking a lot of subjects, who are not always comfortable with even fairly simple technical tasks.

How would you like your practice and skills to develop over 2022-2023?

I have described my practice as being a digital fireman – I am there to limit the consequences of an existing crisis. I am excited to have the opportunity now to also assist in information governance and data privacy compliance to help clients avoid the crises in the first place. It is a very different mindset, and it will take some getting used to, but I am excited about how this change in perspective will expand my skills.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I am especially fortunate to have been around many people wiser than me, whose guidance and insight have helped at many critical junctures. Of all those inspirational figures, my son is the wisest and most mature person I’ve ever known. As an endurance athlete and a two-time competitor on behalf of Team USA at the World Triathlon Championship, he has quite literally been knocked down time and again. He once said that if you’re not being bandaged in the medical tent for a grisly injury, you’re not getting your money’s worth for your race fee. I think that’s a fabulous outlook. If you’re not facing adversity, pain, and loss in life, you’re not getting your money’s worth.

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