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Remote Data Collections

By Brian Balistreri posted 10-21-2022 10:20


Please enjoy this blog posted on behalf of anonymous ILTA member.

As technology becomes an integral part of regular business practices, it’s important for corporate organizations to employ streamlined robust data collection workflows for managing employee collections leading to improving the overall collection experience for the custodian.  Businesses looking to maximize data insights must know that relying on ‘manual traditional’ data collection processes is simply no longer a choice.  Smart organizations understand that introducing the automation advantage to remote data collection workflows is paramount for gaining accurate insights and making strategic data-driven decisions.                                                                                           

With 81% of the workforce now divided into either hybrid or fully remote from home, remote data collections have become the ‘new normal’, many organizations are generating more data than ever, and the physical location of potentially relevant information is no longer centralized within the four walls of a company’s office.  Today’s data volumes have been growing exponentially for the past 20 years and has accelerated especially over the last two years with the rapid transition from on-prem to the remote virtual ‘workforce’ proceeding the pandemic, in which home has quickly become the ‘primary workplace’ for many workers with less delineation being placed between the workday and home life.  Home networks, corporate data and personal data sources have increasingly become a wealth of new data sources that will need to be collected as potentially relevant ESI.

Data is being stored in more places than ever and secure remote collection and analysis of computers, mobile devices, and cloud-based business storage application data is critical in today's hybrid working environment.  Corporations must now apply the same scrutiny to personal data potentially residing on work laptops as the opportunities for this type of ‘data intermingling’ or ‘contamination’ will undoubtedly continue to increase.  An organization’s collection process should be comprehensive without being over-inclusive.  It should preserve the integrity of the data, the chain of custody and authenticity of the documents, should be timely and cost-efficient and not disrupt the organization’s business operations.

There are several practical support practices suggestions / tips from remote preparation protocols to guiding custodians through the collection and shipping process that corporations should employee to ensure forensically sound and defensible remote collections:

  • Define and document chain of custody procedures for how physical or electronic evidence will be acquired, collected, and monitored.

  • Create and deploy standardized methodologies to ensure collection and processing tracking protocols are consistent, complete, and accurate.

  • Streamline workflows by automating repeatable and defensible digital processes employing integrated experiences / methods which will arrive at the same results when verifiable with existing collection workstreams.

  • Coordinate prepaid shipping return labels and allow custodians to schedule a remote courier collection pick-up at their convenience.

  • Develop a plan for monitoring lag times or increased turnaround times due to varying upload or download speeds that may hinder processing / collection times from data collected from home networks.

  • Provide custodians with an escalation path for questions throughout the day, and schedule frequent status calls to respond to questions and provide feedback regarding collection processes.

  • Schedule on-line meetings and remote collections across contiguous  time zones, cross national and international borders to meet court-imposed collection mandates / deadlines.

  • Establish and promote informal means of evidence collection communications using text and / or chat platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc., to help facilitate these valuable casual discussions.

  • Deploy standardization practical automated workflow strategies for handling remote ESI collections over the corporate network.

With the advent of this new remote workplace era, data (mis)management and commingling of business and personal data will remain with us for future matters and there will be a permanent impact on collections going forward and more than ever, it is critical for corporate legal organizations, external counsels, and expert vendors / partners  to work together to develop, document and implement robust policies for remote data and device collections.  Planning and execution are the starting points to capturing and preserving potentially relevant digital data in a forensically sound and defensible manner for the preservation of remote collections for today’s workforce and beyond.