Social Networking Sites and eDiscoveryDavid Almore
March 8, 2011 — 1,156 views
Social networking sites are becoming tremendously popular and contain a wealth of information with active messages, tweets, blogs and comments. The repository of these social activities can provide valuable and potent information which can be produced as electronic evidence in court for litigation.
eDiscovery depends largely on electronically stored information which is considered valid legal evidence. Lawyers search for valid information on networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, My Space, etc., all of which may potentially provide relevant information. These networking sites are good hunting grounds where important witnesses can be located. Photographs, videos, messages and forum posting are all digital data that could potentially be admissible for e-discovery in legal cases.
How Can Information Be Sourced from Networking Sites?
Enterprises, governments and law firms involved in litigation cases have realized the potential of networking sites in helping them with their cases. This information can be gathered in two ways:
·The first method is by searching the data that is freely available through postings in blogs and on walls, etc., that is publicly available.
·The second method is by identifying the owners of the information and establishing contact through friend requests on the sites.
Information that is sourced from networking sites may appear to be casual, but it cannot be ignored as it can provide a significant angle to legal investigators to aid them in pursuing an effective electronic disclosure process.
Limitations in Acquiring Data through Social Networking Sites
Though social networking can provide relevant information necessary for electronic discovery processing, some rules that define the methods of collecting data may be challenging. Those involved in lawsuits may try to invade the privacy of networking site users, which can evoke strong reactions. Moreover the conventional method used by the networking sites to collect and produce information is quite complex for legal investigators to comprehend. Due to this lack of expertise, they are often unable to maximize the use of electronic disclosure software, which results in unsatisfactory results.
What eDiscovery Practices Can Be Implemented on Networking Sites?
The FRCP, or Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which governs civil lawsuits in the U.S., is responsible for stressing ESI in e-discovery processes. The FRCP rules instruct lawyers to employ updated e-discovery practices and strategies. The ECPA, or Electronic Communications Privacy Act, does not permit third parties from acquiring data for electronic disclosure purposes without authorization. Recently the Philadelphia State Bar Association passed a regulation forbidding lawyers from using third parties to collect data from social networking websites. Attorneys had been known to ask third parties to send friend requests to access a user's profile, which is now considered unethical. So these rules and procedures should be kept in mind before embarking on this route.
The Solution to the Networking Dilemma
In this connected day and age, attorneys have to demonstrate skillful tactics in sourcing the information available on social networking to provide the best e-discovery solutions for their clients. The information collected from these sites can be used to testify on various issues like determining the mental condition of the accused or establishing their presence at a specific location which they may have previously denied. Attorneys are generally intimidated by the complexities of e-discovery case management. Legal hassles can be handled with tact using the best of electronic discovery solutions which can help provide required evidence without the fear of treading on illegal territory.