Thought Leadership and Industry Trends
The Internet of Things: Amazon Echo and the Future of eDiscovery
By Chris O’Connor, Director of eDiscovery Strategy, CDS.
In yet another case of the government seeking private information from a technology provider, Amazon spent the last month fighting a subpoena to hand over data in an Arkansas murder investigation. As reported in the media, Amazon initially refused to provide voice and transcription data recorded by an Echo speaker on First Amendment grounds. After extensive briefing and argument, Amazon recently relented and agreed to provide any data recorded by the Echo deployed in this user’s home. While the results of this data collection have yet to be made public, there is surely interest. This matter, in combination with claims being made by the White House with regard to the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of “smart devices” has raised the profile of the Internet of Things as both a source of data and a method of data collection.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to “the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.” It encompasses a wide variety of devices that include healthcare devices (e.g. heart monitoring implants), cars with built-in sensors, and home automation systems (e.g. smart TVs and appliances). All of these devices collect and transmit data, which is where they may become relevant evidence in criminal or civil cases.
The Amazon Echo case focuses on the standards the government must meet in order to subpoena such evidence. But what might happen if this was a civil action? Could a litigant request such information during discovery? From a legal standpoint, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply. But the nature of IoT data raises additional concerns, including the following:
- What type of data is being collected from these devices (voice, images, etc.)?
- How can the data be collected and in what format?
- How can litigants know whether they have all the data?
- What is the obligation to preserve such data?
- If data is lost or overwritten, how can it be recovered?
- How can the data be analyzed and interpreted?
- Can data privacy and security be ensured?
The eDiscovery industry is only starting to deal with the complexity of mobile data. The IoT introduces even more problems. However, it is only a matter of time before litigants request such information. Experts in the industry need to discuss the issues and consider how they will retain and manage this information in the event of litigation.
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