In the last 10 years, personal computers, digital devices, e-mail and the Internet have changed how we function and communicate. Up to 95 percent of all newly created information is created in electronic data format, the majority of which is never printed. This electronic data is sometimes relevant in legal disputes, and in many cases is pivotal evidence.
Lawyers, judges, and others involved in the legal profession, need to understand how electronic documents are different, and how these differences can affect the preservation, collection, and disclosure of electronic data, commonly referred to as "electronic discovery."
A "document" is broadly defined as "data and information recorded and/or stored by means of a device." By this definition, a document can include word processing files, web pages, e-mails, text messages and database information. Also included in this definition is virtually anything else stored in devices such as desktop computers, laptop computers, computer workstations and servers, tablets, cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, voicemail systems, iPods, DVRs, digital copiers, and even some types of printers containing hard drives. Electronic information can also be found on a variety of storage media including hard drives, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, zip disks, tapes, thumb drives and digital memory cards.
Today we are accumulating vast amounts of electronic data. Just viewing pages on a computer creates more electronic information in a variety of ways. For example, Windows will track and keep a list of the documents you opened or accessed, the servers you connected to, the web sites you visited, and more. Some of this information can remain indefinitely in various files on your hard drive and when examined by an expert with our specialized forensics tools, can often provide copies of documents long since changed or deleted.
One common assumption by computer, mobile/smart phone and other digital device users is that "deleted" actually means "deleted." Electronic documents tend to be more difficult to dispose of than paper documents. If you delete a file from your computer hard drive, and then delete it from the Recycle Bin, many assume the file is gone. Nothing can be further from the truth. The fact is, when you delete a document from a hard drive, you only erase pointers to the location that data was stored in. The actual data itself remains, sometimes for a long period of time, and can often be recovered by our experts long after the data has supposedly been eliminated. The same concept applies to a mobile/smart phone and other digital devices.