What is eDiscovery?
Before, all businesses store data and information in paper documents. But with breakthroughs made in Information Technology over the past two decades, businesses have switched to using computers as a major device in storing and managing information. A large fraction of these electronic data contain legally sensitive information that may be used as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case. With this, the process known as eDiscovery has become popular in acquiring evidences to be used in lawsuits. Electronic discovery or commonly referred to as E-discovery is a process wherein electronic data in the form of text, images, databases, spreadsheets, audio files, etc. are being used as evidence in civil or criminal legal litigations.
Electronic Data vs Paper Documents
Electronic data is easy to store, manage, share, and search compared to hard copy data. These characteristics have made electronic data suitable in investigations. Another feature of electronic data which cannot be found in paper documents is the metadata or metainformation that usually go together with electronic data. Metadata is the data about the data, with it more information such as the author and the date the file was created becomes available.
Impact on Business Organizations
As business organizations continue their day to day routine, the amount of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) that needs to be managed also increases. With tightening regulations that have to be put into consideration and the increasing litigations companies have been forced to confront, more and more have become aware of the legal risks involved in managing Electronically Stored Information. This has led companies to invest in information risk management systems and document retention policies.
eDiscovery is a costly process for businesses. Millions of dollars have been spent in eDiscovery. Since the 2006 amendments to the federal procedures for e-discovery, companies have been taking eDiscovery seriously. DuPont spent approximately $12M reviewing documents in eDiscovery, only to find out that those documents should have been destroyed long ago according to according to existing document retention policies. UBS Warburg and Merck were fined $29.2M and $253M respectively in litigation that required eDiscovery of files. The Prudential Insurance Company of America was fined more than $1M for not preserving certain records that proved to be crucial by the courts.
Business organizations have always been left overexposed to documented-related risks. According to The Tower Group, there are about 7.5 million Microsoft Office documents created every year. About 35% of all corporate documents contain legally sensitive information (Cohasset Survey 2005). 25% of corporate documents are subject to regulatory compliance (Vanson Bourne Consultancy) and only about 30% of businesses have implemented technology to facilitate the retention and disposal of documents across the enterprise.
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