Other Important Collection Sources – Collection Fundamentals Series, Part 8

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A multi-part series on the essentials practitioners need to know about ESI collections

In “Collection and the Duty of Technology Competence,” we discussed lawyers’ duty of technology competence and the importance of understanding collection to fulfilling that duty.  In “The Broad Scope of Collection,” we discussed the potential legal and technological scope of collection.  In “How Computers Store ESI,” we discussed the operation of computer memory.  In “Collecting and Recovering ESI from Computer Memory,” we discussed the technical process of collection.  In “The Intersection of Technical and Legal Realities,” we discussed the intersection of that technical process with the legal requirements.  In “Self-Collection and Its Risks,” we discussed the first of the three common collection approaches, and in “In-Person and Remote Collections,” we discussed the other two.  In this final Part, we review a few other important collection sources you may face.

Thus far, we have spoken primarily about the collection of ESI materials from the computers of individual custodians, but most cases involve collection from a range of other sources as well.  The fundamentals of computer memory operation and successful acquisition from that memory are the same regardless, but you still need to be aware of the other source types you may need to consider and the complications that they entail.  The other major categories of sources are: enterprise systems, mobile devices, social media sources, and cloud sources.

Collection from Enterprise Systems

Enterprise systems refers to the software and hardware systems maintained by your organization or its departments, including email systems, internal instant messaging systems, document management systems, CRM or ERP systems, internal collaboration tools, backup systems, and more.  Depending on the nature of the matter, it might also include voicemail systems, security and video systems, or even networked photocopiers or other office machines.

How collection from such systems is performed can vary widely depending on the system.  Some systems store their data in ways that can be directly collected like the materials on a custodian’s computer, while others require you to use the system’s built-in search and export tools.  Those tools can carry important limitations that affect what results a search returns or what an export contains.  Working closely with the responsible IT personnel to ensure those limitations are understood and accounted for is critical when collecting data from enterprise systems.

Collection from Mobile Devices

Mobile devices – smartphones in particular – have become ubiquitous for both personal and business life.  Like all consumer technology, there are a plethora of models and types available, and new ones are released by each maker each year.  And, because a majority of companies now have or are planning to adopt BYOD-friendly policies, organizations are likely to have a much wider variety of smartphones as potential sources than computers (which still tend to be organization-selected and issued).

Smartphones are more difficult, more costly, and more time-consuming to collect and process than computers, and the difficulty, cost, and time can vary from model to model, from maker to maker, and from operating system to operating system.  Special tools like those used to collect from a custodian’s computer will be required (e.g., Cellebrite), as will the device itself.  Remote collections of mobile devices are not currently an option.

Additionally, it is important not to overlook less common mobile devices that may, at times, be relevant, such as vehicle GPS or data systems, wearable devices like fitness trackers, etc.

Collection from Social Media Sources

For better or worse, social media is currently an influential, indispensable part of American life, and as it permeates its way ever deeper into our professional and personal lives, its impact upon discovery is growing in parallel.  There are three main options for the acquisition of social media materials for use in litigation:

  • Printing out the material or capturing a screen image of it – this is fast and cheap but does not capture any native files or metadata, and it may create authentication and admission problems down the road
  • Using the self-service export tools provided by the social media platform – this, too, is fast and cheap, but it also may not provide native files or metadata, and it may come as a single, massive PDF that must be somehow parsed into individual records
  • Using specialized forensic collection software like that you would use to collect from a custodian’s computer (e.g., X1 Social Discovery) – this carries additional costs (either for such a tool or for services from a provider with such a tool), but it can be essential for cases involving large quantities of social media materials, questions best resolved through the materials’ metadata, or the potential for disputes over the authenticity and admissibility of the social media materials themselves

Collection from Cloud Sources

The final category of sources you may encounter today is cloud sources.  These are cloud-based services used either by the organization or by the individuals within it.  Examples include email solutions like Gmail, storage and sharing solutions like Dropbox, messaging solutions like Slack, and office suites like Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365.  Much as with enterprise systems, collection from cloud sources is very dependent on the specific source and the features it includes.  Some common cloud sources have extensive tools geared towards discovery activities (e.g. Office 365 Advanced Discovery), while others have much more limited search and export options.  Successful collection from cloud sources typically requires the assistance of an experienced collection expert (as well as the cooperation of the account holder for individual’s accounts), and it may require custom solutions.

For Assistance or More Information

Xact Data Discovery (XDD) is a leading international provider of eDiscovery, data management and managed review services for law firms and corporations.  XDD helps clients optimize their eDiscovery matters by orchestrating pristine communication between people, processes, technology and data.  XDD services include forensicseDiscovery processingRelativity hosting and managed review.

XDD offers exceptional customer service with a commitment to responsive, transparent and timely communication to ensure clients remain informed throughout the entire discovery life cycle.  At XDD, communication is everything – because you need to know.  Engage with XDD, we’re ready to listen.

About the Author

Matthew Verga

Director of Education

Matthew Verga is an electronic discovery expert proficient at leveraging his legal experience as an attorney, his technical knowledge as a practitioner, and his skills as a communicator to make complex eDiscovery topics accessible to diverse audiences. A fourteen-year industry veteran, Matthew has worked across every phase of the EDRM and at every level from the project trenches to enterprise program design. He leverages this background to produce engaging educational content to empower practitioners at all levels with knowledge they can use to improve their projects, their careers, and their organizations.

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