Back in the beginning of 2011, I wrote about mobile devices and e-discovery in a blog post about US v. Diaz, the California Supreme Court case that confirmed the right of arresting officers to perform a warrantless search of a suspect’s cell phone. In that post I focused on the fourth amendment implications of the decision, but today I’d like to take mobile device e-discovery beyond the realm of criminal law and law enforcement and talk about it in a civil law context. Let’s face it, the conversation is long overdue.
Mobile devices are absolutely ubiquitous these days. According to some recent statistics, 88% of Americans have cell phones and 46% own smartphones. 19% of Americans own tablets, but many more are planning on purchasing one in the next year. Researchers expect smartphones to reach 1 billion in annual sales in 2016 and estimate that sales of smartphones will exceed those of PCs in 2012. Compounded with this is the fact that mobile devices can hold a truly staggering amount of data. Email, call history, contacts, text messages, photos, voice mail, voice recordings, video files, calendar entries, tasks, notes, address book, Web browsing history, calendar, chat logs, data stored in applications (including social media applications), search history and GPS data can all be present on a mobile device at any given time – and each is a potential goldmine of electronic evidence. It’s no wonder that the e-discovery industry is slowly starting to sit up and take notice.
Recent articles in Law Technology News and eDiscovery Journal aired some concerns about the readiness of e-discovery practitioners when it comes to the collection and review of data that resides on mobile devices. Are software and service providers making tools that allow civil law practitioners to collect data from smart phones, i-devices, and cell phones quickly and easily? What does it cost? And how do you review the data once you collect it? It’s well-known that these tools exist in the criminal law and especially law enforcement worlds, but do you have to be a forensic investigator to master them? What application do they realistically have to a corporate legal department or law firm?
The answer is that mobile device discovery is coming to the civil law world whether it’s ready or not. As noted above, mobile devices are everywhere and they harbor a vast amount of discoverable data. Corporations’ “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) policies along with the proliferation of work outside the office – whether while traveling or working from home – mean that organizations have less and less control over what goes on (and comes off) mobile devices that are used in the course of business. Furthermore, these practices make it difficult to ensure that the data available on mobile devices is also available on other sources of ESI, thereby making the devices themselves undiscoverable. And with all the mingling of personal and corporate data on one device, these data sources are rapidly becoming indispensable not only for law suits related to the course of the company’s business, but to more HR-flavored matters as well.
So what are the options available to corporations and legal teams that, instead of dealing with hard drives and PSTs, find themselves with a mix of iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys on data collection day? Well, AccessData, as a pioneer of both investigative and e-discovery technology, unsurprisingly has an extremely simple and affordable solution called MPE+ that allows users to collect and review data from a range of mobile devices (namely 3500+ devices including iPhone/iPad/iPod, Android & Blackberry). It’s quick, and given the depth and breadth of the analysis, beats competing solutions hands down. It’s also truly easy to use with a graphical interface and data review organization that mimics the phone OS’s own look and organization of data. Once data is collected it can be reviewed within MPE+ or exported out to the full range of AccessData’s products (including Summation and AD eDiscovery) via an AD1 file, so you can either view the data independently or mix it with your other case data as part of a larger picture. No matter how you choose to look at it, the end-result of an MPE+ collection is a near-immediate, forensically sound and clean copy of the device’s data with a quick print/PDF view. You truly do not need to be a forensic examiner to use it.
Ready or not, here comes mobile device e-discovery to the corporation and the law firm. However, you have no need to fear because it’s not that complicated when you have the right tools.