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eDiscovery is the electronic aspect of identifying, collecting, and producing electronically stored information (ESI). This is in response to a request for the production of digital evidence in civil litigation, dispute resolution or an investigation. It is the initial phase where parties involved in a dispute are each required to provide relevant information and evidence related to the case.
As it is an abbreviation of electronic discovery, there are numerous variations including eDiscovery, ediscovery, e-discovery and e-Discovery.
Electronically stored information or ESI is basically any digital media including, but not limited to, emails, mobile devices, servers, hard drives, desktops, documents, presentations, databases, voicemails, audio files, video files, social media accounts, USB’s, databases, CAD/CAM files and web sites and any other electronic information that could be relevant evidence in a lawsuit.
The processes and technologies involved in eDiscovery are usually complex due to the volume of electronic data produced and stored. Additionally, unlike hardcopy evidence, electronic documents are more dynamic and often contain metadata.
Metadata is the information generated within a piece of electronic data and is ‘data about data’. It exists within every digital item stored on physical devices and can include the user who created it, creation date, history, and document software used to create it.
Metadata often tells the rest of the story about the document and, therefore, is often a key focus of eDiscovery. Preserving the original metadata of electronically stored information is crucial in order to maintain evidence continuity and avoiding the opposing party critiquing the validity of the evidence during litigation.
eDiscovery is active from the time a formal legal matter is issued to the time the digital evidence is presented in court. ESI is identified by both parties involved, and any relevant electronic or hard-copy documents are placed under legal hold so that they cannot be modified, deleted, or destroyed. Any data associated with the matter is identified, collected, forensically extracted, indexed, and hosted in a secure environment.
eDiscovery technology such as a document review platform is then utilised so that document reviewers can analyse the data and ascertain its relevance to the legal matter. This enables vast amounts of information to be assimilated, culling any non-relevant data, considerably reducing the data set, and leaving only relevant information. This is achieved by applying eDiscovery methods such as Technology Assisted Review (T.A.R), predictive coding, keyword filtering, de-duplication, and email threading.
For production and presentation in court, the data is then usually converted to PDF or TIFF format. The end goal of an eDiscovery exercise is to produce concise evidence for litigation in a defensible manner.
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