Our hyper-connected world has improved our lives in countless ways, from thermostats that maintain the perfect temperature in our home, to smart watches that monitor our vital signs and encourage exercise and healthy living, to smart hubs that can connect all of our devices and respond to simple voice commands. Taken together, the proliferation of technology and connectivity in our everyday lives is what’s known as the “internet of things” (IOT); also defined as the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. While some of the eDiscovery challenges of internet content have been discussed previously, as IOT evolves these issues will become even more important and complex.
A “Smarter” World
The deployment and interplay of IOT devices has been used to create larger connected ecosystems like smart homes. Smart homes contain appliances, lighting, HVAC systems, and other electronics that are capable of communicating with each other through the internet and give their owners the ability to remotely control them, schedule actions, or automate processes without any human input at all.
The internet of things is also now beginning to give rise to smart cities. A smart city can be defined as “an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently.” Most American cities are now utilizing some form of smart sensor technology often to manage city utilities, monitor traffic or assist law enforcement. Some international cities like Singapore and Dubai have gone much further in implementing smart city programs accessible by citizens and designed to improve city living.
The result of these developments is the accumulation and analysis of vast amounts of electronically stored information. Most of us have become accustomed to talking about ESI in terms of megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes and even petabytes of information. As smart cities continue to develop, we may be looking at exabytes, zettabytes, and yottabytes.
The explosion of smart devices, homes and cities will present unique challenges to the legal industry and litigation support and eDiscovery providers tasked with collecting and interpreting this wealth of information, or determining how relevant it may be to litigated matters. Below are a few basic questions that will become a lot more complicated to answer from an eDiscovery perspective as IOT continues to grow in our everyday lives.
- Who does this data belong to?
Electronic Discovery today is still primarily concerned with the collection, processing, review and production of email or Microsoft office data with easily definable metadata fields available such as author, subject, etc.). It is a relatively straight-forward process to identify and assign an owner on data in this traditional format, and all eDiscovery tools currently available have evolved to handle email and office data in a streamlined and efficient manner. Things begin to get less black and white when we start thinking about smart devices, smart sensors and the internet of things. For instance, who owns an Amazon Echo device when anyone can make a verbal request or command? Is it the person who the device is registered to? What about a smart sensor in a fitness club or a wireless camera free to be moved to different locations within range of its hub with the account owner able to provide remote access to anyone they choose with a smart phone and email address?
The question of ownership of data becomes even more complicated when applied to smart cities and privacy concerns among their citizens. At what point does data being collected to improve city services and conveniences cross the line into surveillance and privacy violations for city residents, workers and visitors? How much private information is being inadvertently collected and stored in smart cities and is it discoverable? Is electronic discovery of data gathered by smart cities even possible or financially feasible with current eDiscovery technology and platforms? These are just a few of the questions that are beginning to be considered by governments, legal professions, and electronic discovery service providers as our lives become “smarter”.
- What do we do with smart data?
Let’s assume we move past ownership and privacy concerns and are ready to collect, process, host, review and produce smart data. Now what? The tools currently available at our disposal have been built around electronic data sources we are all very familiar with, like email, office documents, network shares, and more recently social media. The majority of IOT data does not share these familiar formats and is generally housed in the proprietary software associated with the vast array of smart devices in the market today. A key challenge in the near future will be for eDiscovery service and software providers to find ways of collecting and structuring these new data sources. An even more challenging factor may be dealing with the unprecedented size of data that is being generated through IOT. Use of culling workflows and technologies including analytics and technology assisted review will become more important than ever when faced with data sizes exponentially larger than terabytes as hosting such enormous source populations becomes unsustainable in many platforms.
- How do we prepare for the future?
Often the answer to dealing with issues created by technological advances is more technology. In the example discussed above regarding the implications of IOT in the practice of law and electronic discovery, the best solutions will likely come not from new technology, but from the evolution of legal technologists managing eDiscovery today. It will take legions of attorneys, litigation support professionals and technologists to understand, consult on and implement electronic discovery strategies, workflows and new technologies to handle the wave of new smart information. Much like the transition from paper discovery to electronic discovery, we are on the cusp of the next evolution, perhaps smart discovery or IOT discovery? Just like the scanning and imaging providers of the past helped usher in the future of eDiscovery, the eDiscovery providers of today will be essential to ushering in the future of smart discovery.
As the amount and type of data continues to increase, companies will need to work with experts who can advise on how to collect, preserve and process this information in an efficient way. To learn more about how CDS can help, contact us for a consultation.