Legal and technical professionals must constantly adjust to new technologies and techniques, rethinking the data collection paradigms they’ve dependably used. The continually growing size and structure of data in our lives means that the tasks of separating, overviewing and conveying data require the use of new instruments.
Technological progress is an opportunity even as it creates new challenges. The presence of phones, cloud computing, and web storage bring with them scores of data for legal professionals to assemble and separate in the midst of a case. On an ordinary day, individuals leave their digital fingerprint everywhere! Remember that everything is evidence: instant messages, online banking transactions, everything! The ease of storing information in the cloud creates further challenges when attempting to forensically reassemble data. Seeing precisely how new developments handle the data they make is essential.
Adding further variables, the systems for securing data are nuanced and different. Data protection procedures, such as encryption, can put additional barriers in the way during collection. Case in point, smartphones are now ubiquitous, but they create a sprawling web of complex interactions that may have been much more limited in the past.
With so much data floating around, it’s often not a question of where to get the data, but which data to get. It is harder to ensure that the right data are collected and that the procedure being utilized will be admissible. Digital data is easily altered, and its entirety must be shielded to avoid spoliation. In this way, legal teams must take a more nuanced approach to manage their collection methods.
Consider each potential source to ensure consistency and any necessary duplication. An investigation today would be woefully deficient if the collection focused on one single data source rather than the plethora that are probably involved — email, instant messaging, mobile phones, social media, tablets, etc. What are the best practices for these data sources? Consider:
How does each technology work?
How do users interact with this technology?
Where is the data stored?
And how is it stored?
Using new collection methods for these new media is an absolute must. For instance, an good way to bypass encryption on a PC is to log in remotely as an admin to collect the decrypted data. Using these tools is a boon to e-discovery professionals, but they must be used carefully and expertly.
The tenets of e-discovery remain the same: admissibility, security, and documentation. There’s no need to change this solid basis, but as new technologies arise, we can comport them to this model. With any new tool, it’s important to research and do validity testing so that we don’t break that all-important goal of admissibility.
We’re in a whole new world with the nearly infinite data sources that populate our lives. In this new world, the need to collect and assemble evidence will not dissipate, but grow. It is simply important to adapt our methods and training to fit the new devices and software that become prevalent. The key is to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared before you need to!