Updated: Nov 13
Chat data is a large component of business operations today, especially with the increase in the remote workforce. There are chat apps, videoconferencing and collaboration-based platforms that incorporate chat functions, and internal company messaging systems that allow users to communicate in real time for extended periods. Chat apps also promote collaboration by allowing file-sharing and incorporating global features. All of these things are great and vital to streamline business operations. However, when it comes to collecting chat data during litigation many obstacles come into light. Here are a few key problems that chat data imposes on review teams.
It is hard to export chat data because there is no uniformity or consistent structure. Unlike emails that can be easily exported and downloaded, chat data spans over several platforms in many different formats. The saved data could be in XML format on one application and something completely different on another.
When collected, the data can be very comingled and confusing to sort through. If you do not pull everything from the chat together, when collected it will not be grouped together as a single conversation.
By its nature, chat data is much more informal than other type of business communication. People often use abbreviations, slang terms, and emojis when communicating over chat. This is harder to review and understand what is relevant.
Chat data is more commonly stored on personal devices. This has especially increased recently, as many were forced to work from home due to the pandemic. Using personal devices for business functions can make it harder to determine where data resides, ensure preservation, and ultimately collect the data. Although this is not unique to chat data as people store other documents and emails on personal devices, the amount of chat data on these devices is likely a lot more.
What Resolutions Are Available?
While the resolutions to these issues are not very defined yet, there are still ways that organizations can simplify the chat collection process. At a basic level, this includes creating clear policies around company communication and platform usage and conducting more in-depth custodian interviews. Tapping into experts in this area to determine which solutions can help and then balance technology with the human element needed to make chat collection and review as successful as possible. For example, emoji review will need to be performed manually because emojis are contextual and can have several meanings.
On the technological side, solutions like Microsoft Teams offer features that will aid with eDiscovery collection efforts. The Epiq compliance connector will thread all chat messages and attachments into one place, making data collection so much easier than if all this information was scattered. Some specific things the Teams Connector offers is grouping message threads together for 1-on-1, group chats and channel chats, date filtering while still preserving the message and attachment relationships and sub-replies, and creating a PDF output with the same look and feel as the Teams application, as well as an eDiscovery load-file. This is the type of solution organizations should look for when trying to simplify that chat data collection and review process. Using a tool like Teams Connector will improve data management, lower information governance costs, and can help organizations avoid hefty fines for regulatory non-compliance or discovery sanctions resulting from failure to produce.
Keep Chat Data in Compliance
The chat data explosion resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies these discovery obstacles. It adds to the amount of discoverable data and makes the list of custodians even longer. The fact that the conversations need to be sliced makes collecting and reviewing this type of data a very intricate process that expends a lot of time and resources. This will inevitably drive up discovery costs and put more of a spotlight on the chat data dilemma. The unseen benefit is that this may push organizations to explore more solutions that can help simplify this process or tighten policies on company communication. Tapping into experts and using solutions like Teams Connector will make the chat review process less difficult and more manageable. This reduces costs and resources spent on chat data collection while also improving compliance, which are all important eDiscovery goals.
For more information, please contact:
Caroline Woodman, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Asia, Epiq
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