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How Mobile Phones Have Shifted eDiscovery: The Good, the Bad & the Incredibly Confusing

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Mobile ediscovery-web224.3 million. That’s how many smart phone users there were in the US in 2017. Worldwide, that number has exceeded 2 billion. Those are staggering statistics that underscore a single point: Everyone has a mobile phone these days, from grade school kids to grandparents and all ages in between.

Let’s face it. Phones are pretty amazing. You can check your email, text your spouse, post a status update on Facebook, and get the latest stock market activity – all in a few simple clicks.

Plus, there’s an app for just about everything. In fact, in 2018, those with Android phones were able to select between 3.8 million apps. Apple’s App Store, the second-largest, offers over two million apps. That’s a far cry from just 10 short years ago, in September 2008, when there were only about 3,000 apps available.

In the past, phones were a way to connect. Today, they’re so much more, changing how we live dramatically ­– for both the good and the bad.

With them, the Internet of Things is virtually at your fingertips. You can stay connected 24/7 and get in touch with anyone, at almost any time and from anywhere. On the flip side, people are consuming content rather than engaging with others. There’s even a rise in car accidents, with texting becoming a primary cause right up there with drunk driving and speeding.

Clearly, mobile has made a big impact on the world around us with positive and negative implications still to be uncovered. The same holds true in the world of eDiscovery.

Suddenly, with mobile devices, attorneys have access to a variety of data – and huge volumes of it – that could be relevant to a case. In fact, the average mobile device has all kinds of important information on it: email, contacts, call histories, texts, voice messages, videos, photos, calendar entries, notes, Web browsing history, and chat logs.

All of these can be potentially helpful to a legal investigation. For instance, the smoking gun in your next case could be inside a group text. Or you could prove someone’s whereabouts with the location coordinates and timestamps from their phone.

But here’s the rub: you have to gather this information, which is far more complicated than paper records and even email records, for that matter. When it comes to data on a computer, it’s created on a hard drive and stored on a server or network. So it can be easily preserved, harvested and analyzed.

Mobile, on the other hand, is a much tougher nut to crack simply due to the amount of information available through it. Consider this: Most mobile users consume on average 1.8 GB (gigabytes) of data each month. That might not sound like a lot, however, it’s equivalent to around two truckloads of printed documents. 

Not only that, but electronic data is usually recoverable from multiple locations, such as a desktop, laptop, server or external backup system. However, when it comes to certain kinds of mobile data, such as text messages, it can only be obtained from the phone where it originated. 

As a result, requests to collect mobile data sound great in theory, but can be far more complicated and expensive when it comes to the reality of recovery. To streamline the process, lawyers are increasingly faced with difficult-to-answer questions, from how much and what kind of data is needed to how to authenticate it and determine whether it’s admissible or even reliable. 

Another challenge involves the conflict between the personal and professional. As the separation between work time and personal time continues to blend, so too have the lines between work and personal devices. This creates potentially tricky issues when it comes to eDiscovery, namely in cases involving companies with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

In other words, when employees are using their own phones to communicate information about their work, does Fourth Amendment protection come into play? It depends on each particular case. In fact, courts around the country are grappling with this issue, as well as other related ones, with judges trying to balance discoverability and costs with privacy concerns.  

Increasingly, enterprise-level organizations are putting Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions in place to offset issues with BYOD policies, security concerns, and the massive amounts of data produced by mobile devices. But they also come with their own set of data collection problems.

For instance, while they allow corporations to monitor and wipe devices, they’re unable to collect data – like texts – for eDiscovery purposes or even internal investigations. Collection can get even trickier considering the different devices employees bring to work, each with varying operating systems, all compounded by constant upgrades.

The bottom line when it comes to mobile and eDiscovery is: It’s complicated. Almost every click on a mobile device creates data that could not only be subject to discovery in litigation, but also a goldmine of information for your case. That’s the good news…and the bad news. Because of that, there’s so much data that securing, accessing it and making sense of it all can seem hopelessly complex.

So what’s the solution?

You can’t simply ignore mobile; and yet you only need relevant and proportional information. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a forensic report with 25,000 texts coming from 20 different individuals.

The eDiscovery headaches caused by new technology can actually also be solved by new technology. And the right vendor can help you access it, so you can zero in on important evidence in a way that’s legally defensible, giving you peace of mind that you’re complying with legal eDiscovery obligations.

That’s where Team Avalon comes in.

Our certified electronic discovery specialists can transform ESI into a format that is easily searched, organized, and analyzed through a variety of processes and the latest technology in the industry. If you’re interested in learning more, connect with us today.

If you like this blog, you should check out this eGuide: 7 Tips for Saving Time During eDiscovery

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