New Law Demands Greater Accountability for Mobile Data

By  Michael Barbella — December 06, 2006

Earlier this fall, Sophie Pibouin began noticing an increased interest from customers about eDiscovery.

"I would say it was really about two or three months ago," she says. "We had a lot of requests from customers--from corporations and from government."

That interest has only intensified in the wake of a new federal law regarding eDiscovery, the process in which electronic data is sought, secured and searched for the purpose of using it as evidence in a criminal or civil legal case.

Though the new law went into effect Dec. 1, Pibouin says companies have only recently begun to realize the importance of complying with the rule change and the consequences of being in violation of it.

"Companies are a little bit late, and they understand the consequences" says Pibouin, COO of Chronicle Solutions, a provider of content-capturing solutions. "It's a big rule and I hope companies are going to be able to comply very soon."

The new federal mandate requires companies to keep better track of digital content such as employee emails, instant messages and other electronic data. The mandate is part of an amendment to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern civil litigation and were approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in April after a five-year review.

The new statute requires companies involved in civil litigation to meet within 30 days of the suit being filed to decide how to handle electronic data, including the kinds of records that can be shared and the kind of electronic format in which to share them. The companies also must define "accessible data."

"The new rules require businesses to have continuous, ready access to, and control of, all electronically stored information that may be relevant to the discovery phase of the litigation process," explains John Mancini, president of the Enterprise Content Management Association.

Companies involved in federal litigation must now produce electronic data as part of the process in which evidence is shared before a trial. Though state and federal courts have required litigants to produce electronic data in individual cases, the new rules say this data is now required for all federal lawsuits.

Sai Gundavelli, CEO of Solix Technologies, a vendor of eDiscovery software, says the new rules force companies to establish a policy on the kinds of electronic documents that need to be saved and those that can be destroyed. The policy, he adds, must be consistent to ensure that companies are obeying the law.

Companies cannot possibly comply with the law unless they have their houses in order, says Randolph Kahn, president of Kahn Consulting, a consulting firm. "Although the full impact of the rule changes will likely only be realized over a period of years, the changing legal environment makes clear that organizations need to get their information management house in order."

And few companies have their information management houses in order. A survey conducted last month by Computerworld found only a small fraction of companies prepared to fully comply with the new rules. Of 170 IT managers surveyed, 32 percent said their company was not prepared at all for the rules change, while another 42 percent said they did not know their company's preparation for the changes in eDiscovery.

Gundavelli advises corporations to research software systems and companies that build and implement records and information management programs.

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