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Future (Pending??) E-Discovery Landmines?

Many articles lately cover the new e-discovery rules but don’t answer some nitty-gritty issues. 

For example, enterprise databases (e.g., SAP or Oracle) are decades old yet preserving or harvesting data from them can still be a struggle. Separately, I previously wrote about the potential EDD challenges of dealing with software as a service.

Now consider the rise of Web 2.0 tools that enable intra- and inter-enterprise collaboration via the web. Culture of Sharing Is Possible in eWeek (12/18/06) concludes that that “in 2007, more applications will allow simultaneous editing of content with good mechanisms for apprising participants of changes to that content.”

So, what happens when work moves from traditional applications (e.g., MS Word) to web-based systems (e.g., Google DOCs)? How often are data on third-party servers backed up? How long are those back-ups kept? These are the easy questions.

Preserving and harvesting issues grow potentially more complex with truly dynamic systems where multiple users simultaneously edit text or data. How often do such systems take snapshots? How many individual users take snapshots and then how do these compare to what others may save or what’s saved centrally? What happens when the system sends e-mail to alert users of updates, especially if the message contains content that is subsequently altered? Who “owns” or “controls” the data on these systems, especially if two separate companies have agreed to use the same third party tool? What if you need to discover data from a dynamic system such as Second Life?

Whoever addresses these questions on first impression may have a tough job. Likewise the corporate managers who have to establish and enforce record keeping policies concerning these systems. Legal Tech NYC next week is a good place to seek answers.