What is Electronic Evidence Discovery?

Ellena Arroyo

Electronic Discovery (or E-Discovery) refers to any process in which electronic data is sought, located, secured, and searched with the intent of using it as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case. Electronic Discovery can be carried out offline on a particular computer or it can be done across a network.

The average company spends between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in total ramifications per year for data loss. (Source: 7th Annual ICSA Lab’s Virus Prevalence Survey, March 2002)

New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure became law on 12-1-2006, which most corporate lawyers and attorneys are either unfamiliar with or have not been required to use. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically Rule 26, Rule 34, and Rule 45, have been updated in accordance with Computer Forensics and Electronic Evidence Discovery and have added many new procedures for handling and requesting electronic information.

Various types of data may be considered as critical evidence in a case. These types of data include:

  • e-mail
  • plain text and documents
  • images
  • calendar files
  • databases
  • spreadsheets
  • digital faxes
  • audio files
  • animation
  • websites
  • computer applications
  • viruses and sypware

With the increased usage and dependence on the Internet – for corporate and individual communication – e-mail is a valuable source of evidence.

There are several phases to Electronic Discovery. The collection of data is just the first. Once a data audit has been completed and a computer forensics or data recovery service implemented, then there are the tasks to process the electronic evidence and produce the electronic evidence in a format which the client and lawyers will accept, such as TIFFs or PDFs.

The largest obstacles for Electronic Discovery are attorneys and companies who are not getting a Computer Forensic expert involved early in the process and end up compromising or destroying the data that could be important to their case.

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