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New E-Discovery Rules Benefit Some Firms 35

Posted by kdawson
from the don't-overwrite-that-backup-tape dept.
The new E-discovery rules that came into effect last Friday — clarifying federal requirements about producing electronic documents as evidence in lawsuits — may make life harder for some companies, but they will benefit others. mikesd81 writes to mention an AP article profiling companies that help businesses track and search their e-mails and other electronic data. From the article: "There are hundreds of 'e-discovery vendors' and these businesses raked in approximately $1.6 billion in 2006... That figure could double in 2007."
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New E-Discovery Rules Benefit Some Firms

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  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @09:12AM (#17088606) Homepage
    The new E-discovery rules that came into effect last Friday -- clarifying federal requirements about producing electronic documents as evidence in lawsuits

    I think it goes something like this: "You've got nailed!"
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @09:13AM (#17088614) Journal
    The company I work for had a policy that no e-mail was to be kept longer than 30 days unless it was absolutely necessary. If it was an internal e-mail, it was kind of expected that you would delete it as there would be no long term use for it. Now, like a few company policies, this one was broken even by myself a few times. Somebody would write a procedure out in e-mail and send it to the group or you could be in a hurry and you just drop an e-mail on installation instructions into the same directory as the deployment file. Under almost no circumstances were you allowed to record internal instant messaging conversations either.

    It was claimed that we did this to keep the Exchange server free & not clog our hard drives with e-mail. But I really think that our lawyers speculated that since we're such a large company with subcontracters and other companies working with us that it would be best not to have these information linger. It's hard to ensure that a company with many tens of thousands of employees has everyone of them doing things that aren't illegal. It's just a problem of sheer numbers. Plus the incidences of the famous Microsoft memos about their competition. Memos about eliminating your only competition in a free market are frowned upon by the market but not exactly taboo inside the company.

    Now, Friday morning, we got an e-mail saying that that has changed. That now we're supposed to keep e-mails but it didn't really say for how long. Plus it was Friday morning and an e-mail about a change in company policy was pretty high on my list of things to ignore. I'd imagine that our corporate policy is going to change to something vague and undefinable about under what circumstances you're supposed to archive it. And if a case comes up and my company is called on this Federal law that requires them to keep e-mails, it will now be the employee's fault since this e-mail was very applicable to a future case but they failed to archive it. What does that encourage me to do? Keep all my e-mails regardless of any policy.

    I think the more volatile a communication is and the larger the company, the more they encourage you to destroy it. It's just a game of numbers. If you have 10,000 employees and 1 in every 100,000 e-mails is by chance something bad for the company, then each employee need only send 10 e-mails for you to have problems.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991)
      Now, Friday morning, we got an e-mail saying that that has changed. That now we're supposed to keep e-mails but it didn't really say for how long. Plus it was Friday morning and an e-mail about a change in company policy was pretty high on my list of things to ignore. I'd imagine that our corporate policy is going to change to something vague and undefinable about under what circumstances you're supposed to archive it. And if a case comes up and my company is called on this Federal law that requires them to
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ""There are hundreds of 'e-discovery vendors' and these businesses raked in approximately $1.6 billion in 2006... That figure could double in 2007.""

    None of them open source. Looks like RMS will not be having a Merry Christmas.
    • Anyone knows if (open source) sendmail can be configed to keep the messages it has relayed?
      E.g. something like moving processed queue items from the mqueue to another directory instead of deleting them after delivery.

      With that in place, a tool to search the archived messages could come later (i.e. when it is really required).
      • by jo42 (227475)
        I know postfix can be configured to do this very easily.

        Something along the lines of setting up an archive email address and then configuring always_bcc [postfix.org] to that address.
    • Although rsync.net doesn't look like an "e-discovery" provider per se, my own use of their service makes it clear that you could very well use it for this purpose.

      Their platform is totally open and totally based on open source (I think they run on FreeBSD, but perhaps it is Solaris) software like rsync, OpenSSL, and apache, etc.

      If there is any doubt, their warrant canary seals the deal for me and a lot of other folks I know that use thier service for offsite backups and email storage:

      http://www.rsync.net/re [rsync.net]
  • by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Sunday December 03, 2006 @09:40AM (#17088724) Homepage Journal
    It is a really good thing that it is not possible for a malicious party to create forged emails!

    --jeffk++
    • That is the one of the points to discovery. You provide the documents to the other party, so it would be from one of your "sent" emails. The received emails are still up for grabs though.
      • by statusbar (314703)
        But I can forge one of my 'sent' emails as well!

        My whole thought process here is that without crytographically signing the emails, the emails can be forged. Even then, the fact that someone said he 'sent' me an incriminating email does not mean that I received it. My spam filter erases 1200 emails every day, and sometimes there are false positives and sometimes mail servers crash and sometimes my computer crashes and loses files before I read them.

        --jeffk++
        • If you forged one of your "sent" emails then in the discovery materials you would not be able to find the matching email. I agree with you. It is a complete mess....
  • Media Suppliers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday December 03, 2006 @10:05AM (#17088834) Homepage Journal
    It also benefits companys that make backup media.
  • Work mailboxes are limited to 75mb and auto purged of content over 15 days old.
    • by AlexDV (759799)
      I think you're missing the point. The point of this ruling is that businesses will be required to keep this information. Intentionally destroying those e-mails could potentially land your company in some hot water if you were ever required to produce them in court.
  • I wonder if places like yahoo or google ( or other email services, be them free or pay ) will have to retain and provide emails on demand, from their users. Both are 'US companies'. True, you arent employeed by either company, but they might still be required to do so, depending on how loose the law is ( no, ive not had a chance to read it ).

    And, does this get extended to 'general files' as well? Thats pretty much the same as shreding documents if you only retain electronic copies of critical documents.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by nomadic (141991)
      I haven't read through all the new rules, but everything I've read about them say they kick in at the discovery stage of litigation. Presumably the traditional rules regarding document retention policies are still in place (if someone who has read them all knows differently, please say so). Under the regular rules Courts generally will allow you to have document retention policies, and get rid of old stuff. What you're supposed to do is whenever you have a reasonable belief that you may be sued over some
  • by nomadic (141991)
    I used to work for an e-discovery firm. You have no idea how boring it is to go through thousands of e-mails and other electronic documents and decide whether they're responsive for a lawsuit or not.

    I saw plenty of really interesting e-mails that I'm sure the sender never imagined someone else would ever read. Taught me a lesson; I never complain about my current job, or talk about anything specific about my work, over my work e-mail.
    • As someone currently immersed in going through about 10,000 pages of paper copied e-mails plus another years worth in a couple of electronic formats let me say: you think it's boring on your end? Sheesh! And, of course, there are those classic foward chains of everything from Osama jokes to pictures of various unclothed individuals. I'm sure the various investigators find those as delightful as do those who receive them. Bottom line: if anyone still thinks e-mail is private...
  • New laws come in placing extra requirements on $group, so firms spring up/enlarge to offer the service for a fee.

    When exactly has this *not* happened?
    • by matzebrei (901706)
      It's not some case of rampant legislation and a bunch of "entrepreneurs" who want to make money off it, but rather a fairly backwards industry catching up a little and putting forth some long-needed standards. Only in the last few years have emails even been a regular part of discovery, and even then most courts handle them by printing them out and treating them as paper plus whatever metadata you can extract from the original mailbox*.

      For the longest time in the legal world, just about everything was p
  • E-Discovery (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I work right now on a such project for a very big company. It's crazy, but this e-discovery email/data holding is a very complex application. We are(or suppose to be) near completion, but we are yet to see the details. Our big problem are the lawyers , they change their minds and alter the specs ofter than a baby his diapers. It's quite a hell to do automated tests. FYI, we are using the compliance software from aungate ( http://aungate.com/content/pathways/litigation/ [aungate.com] ).
  • ...may make life harder for some companies, but they will benefit others.

    The same way US tax law makes life harder for "some" (MOST) companies but benefits the parasitical "tax accountant".

    "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while congress is in session" - Mark Twain

  • ...may make life harder for some companies, but they will benefit others

    Isn't that true for just about any government regulation?
  • IANAL, but I am a Litigation Technology Admin for a major IP firm:

    As far as retention/compliance goes, this isn't SOX for everyone who might ever be sued...I think having retention policies (and following them) becomes more important (ex. amended rule 37(f) creates an explicit safe harbor in the event that data is destroyed in the normal course of business, absent a litigation hold or anticipation of litigation), but there's still no duty to preserve until there's reasonable expectation of a lawsuit (in con
    • "rule 37(f) creates an explicit safe harbor in the event that data is destroyed in the normal course of business, absent a litigation hold or anticipation of litigation"

      IAAL, and from what I've heard, the safe harbor isn't really much of a protection. A typical strategy might go something like this.

      1) Send an e-mail letter to a potential defendant corporation, to some low level attorney in their legal department, complaining about whatever it is you complain about (product liability, HR, whatever). Includ
      • by Remik (412425)
        You assume that the company "reasonably anticipated litigation" because a low-level associate received an e-mail from someone with an axe to grind that obliquely hinted at the possibility of hiring an attorney? I think that supposition would be laughed out of most courts.

        -R
  • It is well known by economists that large firms will sometimes lobby for increased regulation of their industries in order to raise barriers of entry to new firms and impose costs on existing competitors who are less able to satisfy the regulatory hurdles. This behavior is also seen in professional associations who lobby for licensing to restrict the number of practitioners. In fact, among the more heavily regulated professional occupations is that of cosmetology and this is in spite of the fact that the pu

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