E-Discovery Ruling Gives Companies Another Data Worry

As if the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) hadn’t given companies enough to worry about, now a judge’s ruling means that companies need to be ready to produce metadata in legal cases too.

Guidance Software (NASDAQ: GUID) issued an alert today saying that in a recent court case (Aguilar v. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Div. of U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec.), a U.S. District Court ruled that metadata associated with e-mails and electronic files must be preserved, maintained and produced in the course of legal discovery, particularly when sought by the requesting party in its initial request.

The ruling opens up another area where companies could be hit with steep fines for failing to produce electronic documents in court cases — and could mean more business for e-discovery vendors.

The Aguilar decision and recent guidance from the Sedona Conference emphasize the importance of metadata preservation in the course of e-discovery, said Guidance Chief Strategy Officer John Patzakis, who said metadata can be used for authentication, search and analysis while also offering evidentiary value such as when the file was created or accessed.

Patzakis and Guidance Deputy General Counsel Patrick Zeller said Guidance’s EnCase eDiscovery software preserves metadata throughout the e-discovery process by handling all files on a read-only basis in their original formats, avoiding the need to reset file metadata to its original state.

Brian Babineau, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said companies “should already be using technologies that capture and preserve metadata throughout the discovery process, as metadata is often used to run initial collections and searches. If they are not currently using technologies that preserve metadata, they are not really helping themselves, as the integrity of any data collected, analyzed and produced could be questioned. Now they don’t have a choice.”

Babineau said the ruling affects users who “leverage specific technologies like archive hardware and software, search solutions and data review tools to support electronic discovery processes. … Specifically for storage administrators, they should be prepared to retain more information on WORM format, as this can help preserve the data and metadata throughout the process.”

Babineau cited Kazeon, Autonomy Zantaz and Recommind as other e-discovery vendors that preserve metadata.

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Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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