New e-discovery rules put bigger burden on IT

Though it’s been several years since electronic discovery first became a big issue for IT managers, there is still plenty of confusion over how far companies must go to retain data. However, a recent court ruling did clear up some important details.

As part of a case regarding a Freedom of Information Act dispute, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) was ordered to turn over electronic documents, including e-mails, spreadsheets and text records.

In response, the government turned over a PDF file containing all the requested documents, totaling around 3,000 pages.

The defendants filed several complaints regarding the way the government produced the documents, namely:

  1. the data wasn’t searchable
  2. the records contained no metadata (information about files such as when they were created or modified), and
  3. all records were lumped into the same file with no clear indication of where each individual record began or ended.

The government, on the other hand, argued that the defendants never asked to receive the documents in any specific form.

However, the court decided in favor of the defendants. E-discovery rules state that electronic evidence must be given to the other party in a “reasonably useable” form, meaning, when possible, it must:

  1. be searchable, and
  2. contain metadata, including dates, times, filenames and sources.

In this case, the judge said, the government should have turned over many of the documents in their original formats, since that would have given the defendants the most useable data without an unreasonable expense.

IT directors may want to consult with company attorneys to make sure they’re equipped to handle the demands laid in this case. These clarified rules may require IT to implement new technologies and change the way data is saved.

To read the full opinion, download it here.

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