E-discovery And Why You Need An Email Retention Policy

E-discovery has become an important part of civil litigation and in order to comply with legal obligations and compliance requirements many organisations need an email retention policy.

E-discovery (short for electronic discovery) is the mining of electronically stored information, and it is very different from discovery processes that involve paper information. The primary difference is that electronic information is intangible, that there are huge volumes of it, and that while it can be persistent, it can also be transient. It is also more likely to include metadata than paper information, for instance electronic information is frequently date stamped.

There are many different forms of electronic data that are subjected to e-discovery. These include amongst others emails, instant messages, text files, images, video, databases, voicemail, data files, computer programs and websites.

E-discovery is implemented in order to locate and secure data that might be used as evidence in connection with a civil or criminal legal case. It may be ordered by a court or by government.

In principal E-discovery is considerably easier than searching paper documents. While the former can be done electronically the latter needs considerable manpower. Also, it is easier to destroy paper documents than it is electronic data. Paper documents can be destroyed or shredded in such a way that it is impossible to reconstruct them. Although it is possible to delete electronic data, it is very hard to remove all traces of it. It will almost certainly appear in many different places on different storage devices. Even if every shadow of the data was detected and deleted, in most cases it would be possible to reconstitute it, to effectively undelete the information.

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Different countries have different data retention requirements and these relate to specific business sectors. There are many statutes, regulations and examples of case law that define how long certain data must be retained, typically between 1 and 50 years, for example all emails in the financial sector must be retained for a minimum of six years.

It is clear that companies must have an email retention policy that specifies how emails are archived. Just leaving this up to employees is asking for problems and could result in the business having to face steep legal penalties.

An email retention policy should state which kind of email should be retained; the length of time that they should be kept; what to do with them after that time period and how they should be deleted; how staff will be trained in implementing the policy; and sanctions on staff who fail to comply.

This is a guest post by Adam a new Londoner, who has interests in recruitment, all things techy, a passion for travel and a love of fashion. He blogs about recruitment, travel and IT/technology as well as latest trends in mens and womens fashion. If you want Adam to write you specific content, feel free to message me on Twitter (@NewburyNewbie).

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