Electronic discovery (e-discovery) is the process of identifying, collecting, and producing electronically stored information (ESI) for civil and legal uses. ESI includes everything from web history archives, social media posts, and emails to electronic documents, digital images, audio files and video footage considered relevant evidence to a lawsuit.
Legal matters are tricky to deal with, which is why in the event that your company gets involved in a lawsuit regarding cybercrime, a basic knowledge of e-discovery puts you at an advantage.
E-discovery is a multistep process that involves different stages that identifies, preserves, collects, processes, reviews, and produces electronically stored information. Experts review and filter the electronic evidence gathered so only the most important documents remain are presented in court.
Identification and collection
Before collection and evidence gathering takes place, you should first locate and identify potential sources for the data. After identification, collect this information right away as putting it off may result in loss of data. Some people might delete their posts on social media platforms; the image or information you saw last week might no longer be available this week. Collect relevant data right away to prevent this scenario.
Collected data needs to be preserved; otherwise, it runs the risk of file corruption or alteration. Relevant data owners receive legal holds from the legal team to instruct them not to delete identified ESI. Through this, evidence preservation becomes a legal process that ensures both archived evidence and the original source is still present.
Processing and analysis
Processing involves preparing the collected ESI for the analysis and review of the attorney and his legal team. This involves specialized software that extracts files from folders, deletes meaningless system data and converts file formats for easy access of the reviewing attorney. You also reduce costs by reducing the volume of information that moves to the next step of e-discovery through deleting unnecessary and duplicate files.
After processing the data, the attorney receives the electronic files and reviews them. The attorney looks through the files for privileges and its related documents.
Privilege allows the holder of the document to refuse to disclose information or provide evidence. Documents with approved privilege requests no longer count as evidence. The attorney has to take these out of the e-discovery process.
This step involves preparing the documents for court exchange between legal counsels. These documents may require conversion into TIFF or PDF files for static format. A computer assists with the reviews, depending on the volume of documents received.
After repeated filtering and sifting of information on the relevant evidence, the lawyers finally present and display the ESI before all the involved parties.
Electronic discovery ensures the electronic documentation used in court is authentic and credible. Due to the intangible nature of online posts and documentation, it has to go through several filters for verification. With this process, you can get a wealth of information against fraudsters and cyber criminals.
As people’s lives continue to rely on technology and the internet, the use of e-discovery in litigations and court hearings will continue to rise.