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The New Era of Chat Review – The Relativity Short Message Viewer

Oct 29, 2019

The Relativity Short Message Viewer was first integrated into Relativity Trace (Relativity’s integrated compliance monitoring system) and is now available in Relativity from version 10 onwards. The Short Message Viewer allows for the review of a multitude of Short Message Formats integrated directly into the standard Relativity viewer. This integration and format provides a consistent approach to both the look of Short Message Formats as well as the review workflows for searching, reviewing, coding and producing documents, in line with the workflows used for standard document formats.

What is a Short Message?

A Short Message is the term being used by Relativity to describe any application which provides messaging functionality which often consists of many short messages being interchanged between multiple parties very quickly. Examples of these are chat applications such as Skype, SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Slack, but can also be linked to Social Media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook as well as trading platforms such as Bloomberg.

Why is this such a big change?

Previously short message formats were notoriously difficult to standardise for a number of reasons, firstly all chat applications are different and do not have a native format as you see when dealing with different email platforms i.e. you cannot just export a skype conversation and process it in the same way as an email message. When exporting data from these platforms you are often faced with structured data formats such as a .xml or .json files. Although these formats are friendly for developers, the normal document reviewer is not going to be able to make head nor tail of the content (such as the Skype json export identified in the image below), with each export format being different and each short message application containing different information unique to that application.

Lastly (at least for the purposes of this breakdown) the exports are often large and comingled, often containing the content for all exported chats in one large file, this means that the files also need to be split into logical and cohesive conversation threads to be easily reviewable and disclosable.

The existing workflows when working with this type of data was to use third party or proprietary tools to take an export of the application and parse the content out into different formats depending on the preference of the developer. The data could then be viewed in proprietary tools outside of Relativity, or converted into a format Relativity could ingest such as email or text files, often losing information such as the formatting or embedding the attachments. This process has worked for some time but was often not perfect, the main reason for this is that every eDiscovery vendor or third party app developer worked differently and had different visions resulting in a disconnect in not only how the data was handled, but how it was reviewed and how it would be disclosed and reviewed by the opposing parties.

How has this changed?

Relativity has created a standardised format for the processing and review of this data with the new Relativity Short Message Format (RSMF). This is a proprietary file format designed by Relativity that all Short Message Data can be converted to in order to provide a standardised format for all applications. This data is then recognised by Relativity, processed, with its metadata extracted and the documents easily reviewable within Relativity. Alongside providing an easily reviewable and standardised format the viewer also contains added functionality such as the time line view as well as the traditional functionality Relativity review functionality such as keyword highlighting.

How is that data produced and handled by different platforms?

One of the amazingly well thought out features of the RSMF file is that it also functions as an email container, you may ask yourself “Why this is important?” This is important as Relativity have proactively identified that not every team is going to be utilising Relativity, and even if they are, they may not be on the latest version. As such the RSMF file also functions as an .eml file (a format for individual emails similar to a .msg). This is important as when producing the data natively the exported file will be a .rsmf file. When this is processed/loaded into a non-Relativity 10 platform the data is treated as an email file and is therefore still reviewable in other platforms.

How can review teams utilise this functionality?

In order to use the Short Message Viewer data currently needs to be converted into a .rsmf file prior to its ingestion into Relativity. As data is not able to be processed directly from its export format it is down to eDiscovery vendors and app developers in order to develop conversion tools and workflows to convert their data into this proprietary format. As such the current workflow is as follows:

As the popularity of this format grows the applications themselves may begin to utilise this format as an export option directly from the application. Forensic software’s such as Cellebrite have already announced an export of collected phone data to the RSMF format with a scheduled release of this export option in the July 2019 update.

Until every company follows this mind-set it is currently down to the eDiscovery community to develop their tools to cater for this option in order to standardise the format of this data and provide a more streamlined  and efficient review experience for legal teams utilising a data format which is easier to review and work with.

CDS provides a full-range of collection and advisory services. To discuss how CDS can assist with Short Message data, contact us for a consultation.

About the Author

<a href="https://cdslegal.com/team/mark-anderson/" target="_blank">Mark Anderson</a>

Mark Anderson

In his role as Director of UK Operations for CDS, Mark Anderson provides project management and expert consulting through all stages of eDisclosure and eDiscovery. Mark works alongside corporate and law firm clients to identify data for collection and advises on best practices for collection of data, data processing, and document review workflows. He has supervised multi-national teams and has experience working on some of the largest, most challenging matters, including cases involving cross-border issues and the application of technology assisted review (TAR). Prior to joining CDS, Mark conducted forensic collections, assisted with data investigations, and served as a project team lead for multiple international legal technology service providers. Mark holds multiple Relativity certifications including Relativity Master and is an Encase Certified Examiner.