Tag Archives: eDiscovery

Gibson Dunn Report: Number of Cases Involving Social Media Evidence “Skyrocket”

By John Patzakis

Global law firm Gibson Dunn has released their esteemed 2015 Mid-Year eDiscovery and Information Law Update.skyrocket In a section dedicated to social media, the Gibson Dunn update reports that “the use of social media continues to proliferate in business and social contexts, and that its importance is increasing in litigation, the number of cases focusing on the discovery of social media continued to skyrocket in the first half of 2015.”

The eDiscovery update addresses key themes and several cases involving key legal issues related to social media evidence, which were previously addressed on this blog. Two key highlights cite cases affirming that mere screenshot printouts of social media evidence are not defensible and clarify overall authentication requirements in order to admit social media evidence in court.

As noted by the report “in the first half of 2015, courts continued to find that the testimony of the individual who printed a copy of a social media webpage, or prepared a memorandum summarizing information obtained from the social media account, is insufficient to authenticate social media evidence.” The report cites Linscheid v. Natus Medical Inc., 2015 WL 1470122, at *5-6 (N.D. Ga. Mar. 30, 2015) (finding LinkedIn profile page not authenticated by declaration from individual who printed the page from the Internet); Monet v. Bank of America, N.A., 2015 WL 1775219, at *8 (Cal Ct. App. Apr. 16, 2015) (finding that a “memorandum by an unnamed person about representations others made on Facebook is at least double hearsay” and not authenticated).

The Report also cited “a major shift” in case law concerning the authentication of social media evidence. The Court of Appeals of Maryland determined that “in order to authenticate evidence derived from a social networking website, the trial judge must determine that there is proof from which a reasonable juror could find that the evidence is what the proponent claims it to be.”  Sublet v. State, 113 A.3d 695, 698, 718, 722 (Md. 2015) (citing U.S. v. Vayner, 769 F.3d 125 (2d Cir. 2014)). Previously in Maryland, social media evidence was admissible only if the judge was “convince[d] . . . that the social media post was not falsified or created by another user.”  Griffin v. State, 19 A.3d 415 (Md. 2011).

Under Sublet, the preliminary determination of authentication is made by the trial judge and is a “context–specific determination” based on proof that “may be direct or circumstantial.” Id. at 715 (citing Vayner). The court noted that “[t]he standard articulated in Vayner … is utilized by other federal and State courts addressing authenticity of social media communications and postings.”

These cases cited by Gibson Dunn illustrate why best practices software is needed to properly collect and preserve social media evidence. Ideally, a proponent of the evidence can rely on uncontroverted direct testimony from the creator of the web page in question. In many cases, such as in the Vayner case where incriminating social media evidence is at issue, that option is not available. In such situations, the testimony of the examiner who preserved the social media or other Internet evidence “in combination with circumstantial indicia of authenticity (such as the dates and web addresses), would support a finding” that the website documents are what the proponent asserts. Perfect 10, Inc. v. Cybernet Ventures, Inc. (C.D.Cal.2002) 213 F.Supp.2d 1146, 1154. (emphasis added) (See also, Lorraine v. Markel American Insurance Company, 241 F.R.D. 534, 546 (D.Md. May 4, 2007) (citing Perfect 10, and referencing MD5 hash values as an additional element of potential “circumstantial indicia” for authentication of electronic evidence).

One of the many benefits of X1 Social Discovery is its ability to preserve and display all the available “circumstantial indicia” or “additional confirming circumstances,” in order to present the best case possible for the authenticity of social media evidence collected with the software. This includes collecting all available metadata and generating a MD5 checksum or “hash value” of the preserved data for verification of the integrity of the evidence. It is important to collect and preserve social media posts and general web pages in a thorough manner with best-practices technology specifically designed for litigation purposes.  For instance, there are over twenty unique metadata fields associated with individual Facebook posts and messages. Any one of those entries, or a combination of them contrasted with other entries, can provide unique circumstantial evidence that can establish foundational proof of authorship.

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Filed under Case Law, eDiscovery, Social Media Investigations

Judges Believe Social Media will Have Biggest Effect on eDiscovery Over the Next Two Years

The good folks at Exterro recently released a very interesting report titled “Federal Judges Survey, eDiscovery Best Practices and Trends.”  The title includes a link to download the report, which I highly recommend reading as it is good to know what the judges who rule on eDiscovery all the time are thinking.  Overall, the report calls for some necessary disruptive change in the practice of eDiscovery in order to demonstrate competency.  There are some excellent tips in the report on how eDiscovery professionals can improve and what kinds of trends we should be on the lookout for.

One finding stood out to me in particular – the Judges surveyed felt that social media would be the technology trend with the biggest effect on eDiscovery over the next two years.

Exterro Survey

As the report states, “Attorneys must be aware that all emerging technology platforms are just like email; if they hold relevant evidence you are accountable for preserving the data.”  At X1, we’ve known this for quite some time.  We’ve blogged about cases where the old way of doing social discovery – print screen – has been shown to lack authenticity standards and not meet the duty of competency that lawyers must meet.  To see the Judges recognize this as a critical trend rather than just a niche corner of the market validates what we have known for years.

It is no coincidence that X1’s Social Discovery product continues its rapid upward trajectory.  There is simply no other product on the market that offers a true investigative platform for this critical new data type.  Such a social media investigative platform will include:

  • Tight API connections to the major social media publishers like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. The API connection allows for the capture of unique metadata that each publisher adds to its data.
  • A web crawler and capture capability that creates a copy of the page to be stored for processing into a preservation repository.
  • The ability to keep data forensically sound. This requires calculating MD5 hash values of individual items upon capture and maintaining those values through export. The platform must keeps logs and reports of all actions on data. It also must be able to use metadata to establish chain of custody and authentication.

The challenge with social media – unlike email – is that much of the data resides outside the walls of an organization.  Collection of social media becomes a challenge. Companies cannot simply call Facebook or Twitter and request all of the information for various custodians.  It is possible to take screenshots of various web pages or social media sites, but as case law points out, screenshots are not necessarily admissible as evidence.  Plus, screenshots take a technical toll on eDiscovery – they can be difficult to index and may require OCR, which still may not be able to pull text out of the image.  That is where an investigative platform like X1 Social Discovery is so important to a competent eDiscovery practice.

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Filed under Best Practices, Social Media Investigations

Amazon Re:Invent – With the Cloud, Avoid Mistakes of the Past

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Amazon Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. Over 13,000 people took over the Palazzo for deep dive technical sessions to learn how to harness the power of Amazon Web Services (AWS). reinventThis show had a much different energy than other enterprise software conferences, such as VMworld.  Whereas most conferences feature a great deal of selling and marketing by the host, Amazon Re:Invent was truly more of a training show. Cloud architects spent a lot of time in technical bootcamps learning how AWS works and getting certified as administrators.

That is not to say that there was no selling or marketing going on; the exhibition hall featured myriad vendors that augment or assist with AWS deployments and solutions. The focus on the deep technical details, though, does point out the fact that we are still in the very early days of the cloud. Most of the focus of the keynotes was about getting compute workloads to the cloud – there was not a lot of mention of moving actual data to the cloud, even though that is certainly beginning to happen.  But, that is how the evolution goes. IT departments need to be comfortable moving workloads to the cloud as they begin to leverage the cloud. Building this foundation is also important to Amazon – the goal would be for many companies to completely outsource the IT data center.

It is important, however, to proactive plan for information management as more workloads and, importantly, data move to the cloud.  As the internet first emerged, companies dove into new technologies like email and network file shares only to create eDiscovery nightmares and make it virtually impossible to find information within digital landfills. It is key to learn from those mistakes rather than to repeat them when leveraging cloud-based technologies. In order to ensure both that end-users are happy with search experiences on data in the cloud and that Legal can do what they need to do from an eDiscovery standpoint. This means providing business workers with unified access to email, files, and SharePoint information regardless of where the data lives. It also means giving Legal teams fast search queries and collections. But, Cloud search is slow, as indexes live far from the information. This results in frustrated workers and Legal teams afraid that eDiscovery cannot be completed in time.

If a customer wanted to speed up search, it would have to essentially attach an appliance to a hot-air balloon and send it up to the Cloud provider so that the customer’s index could live on that appliance (or farm of appliances) in the Cloud providers data center, physically near the data. There are many reasons, however, that a Cloud provider would not allow a customer to do that:

  • Long install process
  • Challenging Pre-requisites
  • 3rd party installation concerns
  • Physical access
  • Specific hardware requirements
  • They only scale vertically

The solution to a faster search is a cloud-deployable search application, such as X1 Rapid Discovery. This creates a win-win for Cloud providers and customers alike. As enterprises move more and more information to the Cloud, it will be important to think about workers’ experiences with Cloud systems – and search is one of those user experiences that, if it is a bad one, can really negatively affect a project and cause user revolt. eDiscovery is also a major concern – I’ve worked with organizations that moved data to the cloud before planning how they would handle eDiscovery. That left Legal teams to clean up messes, or more realistically, just deal with the messes. By thinking about these issues before moving data to the cloud, it is possible to avoid these painful occurrences and leverage the cloud without headaches. At X1, we look forward to working closely with Amazon to help customers have the search and eDiscovery solutions they need as more and more data goes to AWS.

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Filed under Cloud Data, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, Enterprise Search, Hybrid Search, Information Access, Information Governance, Information Management