By John Patzakis
Every litigator and eDiscovery practitioner is aware of the critical importance of analytics as a tool to support their cases. AI-driven analytics supercharges compliance investigations, data security, privacy audits, and Technology Assisted Review (TAR) of documents, emails, social media and other web-based items. AI machine learning employs mathematical models to assess enormous datasets to gain deep insights into key information. This enables the identification of discrete and hidden patterns in thousands of emails, social media posts and other electronic files to categorize and cluster documents by concepts, content, or topic.
However, it is important to understand that such a powerful capability requires the extracted text and metadata of the subject documents, emails and social media posts. So when examiners resort to screenshots, including flat file PDF image captures, this prevents the use of game-changing analytics in your case. Screenshots do not natively preserve the subject text or metadata and are useless if fed into analytics engines. This is a major disconnect with many eDiscovery practitioners who may not fully understand that by utilizing print screen, they are forfeiting their clients’ ability to utilize otherwise game-changing analytics on the social media and other web-based data they are collecting.
Bobby Malhotra, eDiscovery team co-lead at Munger Tolles highlighted this point in a recent webinar addressing the importance of native file collection for social media evidence: “If you are on a matter that is going to be very data intensive in terms of collecting voluminous amounts of data from social media sites, and you are going to need to mine through that data to understand what happened and get the relevant context (with an AI engine) the only way to really do that is to collect the full text and metadata, and so, screenshots will not suffice.” Malhotra emphasized that this is a “really critical point regarding the analytics process as a lot of people don’t think about that.”
In fact, not only will screenshots omit text and metadata, the screenshot will create a false record if introduced into the review and analytics workflow as the metadata of the screenshot itself will be completely different that the metadata of the original native object. For these reasons, it is important under an attorney’s duty of competency related to eDiscovery technology, to understand the implications of not collecting social media and web based evidence in native format, and strongly consider utilizing best practices technology to properly collect and preserve this critical source of evidence.