Best Collection Practices – How Multifaceted Software Changed Electronic Discovery | Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

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As our workforce shifted to mobile and remote working practices (a trend in place before COVID, which only accelerated during the pandemic), businesses have turned to collaborative messaging tools such as Slack and various versions of Teams to manage communications. On the positive side, by using these messaging tools, organizations are able to more effectively discuss ideas and brainstorm solutions. However, when an organization is involved in a dispute and these communications are potentially relevant to the dispute and need to be retained and collected, the process may not be as straightforward as simple email collection.

My colleague, Dave Welch, previously wrote a blog on Structured Data and Messaging Platforms in eDiscovery called “The Growing Source of ESI: Structured Data and Messaging Platforms”. I also recommend that you read his blog. In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into how best to fundraise from Slack and Teams.

What is Slack?

Slack is a complex and multifaceted tool that essentially serves as a company-wide chat room. It allows you to communicate in real time rather than through the delayed round trips of email chains. Slack’s website says that as of September 2019, more than 12 million people actively use the tool every day.

There are three main ways to communicate with Slack:

  • Workspaces – This is the company’s Slack environment. Typically, a small or medium organization can have one workspace, although larger organizations can have the Enterprise Slack Grid option, which allows more multiple workspaces.
  • Channels – These are public or private forums. All members of an organization can have access to certain public channels and a specific department, such as human resources, can have its own private communication channel.
  • Direct messaging – Individuals or groups of individuals can communicate using direct messaging.

Slack also allows integration with over 2,000 third-party apps.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft’s website says that in 2020, Teams’ user base grew from 40 million to 145 million daily active users.

Microsoft Teams also has several means of communication:

  • Chat features – Teams allows you to chat between one or more parties. It also allows users to search and save these discussions for future reference.
  • Call – Teams supports conference calling technology.
  • Meetings – Teams allows video conferencing between multiple parties.
  • Collaboration – Teams integrates with Dropbox and OneDrive to enable seamless sharing of information.

What are the best practices for Slack and Teams data collection?

While Slack and Microsoft Teams apps present new challenges for both organizations and eDiscovery professionals, standard eDiscovery practices still apply: work with IT to ensure data is preserved. potentially relevant data; communicate with stakeholders to understand how they use the platforms and identify potentially relevant data for collection; develop a collection plan; and document your steps throughout.

Step 1: Meet with the customer’s IT resources and ask some of the following questions:
  • What messaging apps are used by employees working on this project / issue? If Slack, which Slack plan is used in the company (Pro, Business + or Enterprise Grid)?
  • What is the company policy regarding the retention of Slack and Teams data? Can employees delete messages or communication channels? Are attachments also kept?
  • Is third-party integration in place in the Slack and Team environments? Front-end deleted data may still exist in these third-party tools and therefore collecting it may be essential.
  • What are the rights of users in the Slack utility? Owners, directors, members or guests. What are the rights of users in the Teams app? Owners or Members.
Step 2: Determine your custodians for collection and collect the following information from them:
  • How do they use Slack and Teams?
  • Do they use private or public channels?
  • Do they use Team’s collaboration features or just video and calls?
Step 3: Determine your collection method:

Slack offers different types of exports.

  • Standard / Enterprise exports will export all content from the public channel.
  • Enterprise exports will export all public and private channels and direct messages.
  • These two exports will produce a .json file (JavaScript Object Notation, example shown below).

As you can see, the export is not in any kind of format that can be easily reviewed by a legal team. Most of the time, .json files can be reformatted, but there is another option.

  • Collecting through the Discovery API is a much better solution. This is a third-party application that will collect all the resources in several workspaces in the environment. Using this collection method and using reliable eDiscovery review tools will enable the processing and review of Slack data in a way that is meaningful to the case team.

Microsoft Teams also offers various methods for exporting data.

  • Content Search: Content Search is Teams’ core eDiscovery tool and allows easy searching by keywords and various queries; However, data in Teams is stored in various apps such as Sharepoint and OneDrive. Therefore, searching the Azure backend of the product may have some indexing and exporting limitations.
  • Core eDiscovery: Core eD in Microsoft 365 allows the user to perform more detailed searches and export content.
  • Advanced eDiscovery: Microsoft’s advanced eDiscovery collection tool allows user to target data collection on specific applications and custodians, then export the data in a format compatible with discovery processing tools electronic.
Step 4: Document the process:
  • In Steps 1 to 3, the e-discovery professional will gather very valuable information which should all be documented, including names of custodians, interview notes, organizational practices, collection channels and applications. third parties. It is important to track all of this information from start to finish so that you have a reliable reference for the process you went through to identify and collect the relevant information.

It is a very exciting time in the world of work. The need will continue to drive ingenuity and we will continue to see new tools being used in the market. The world of e-discovery will certainly continue to learn ways to effectively collect and manage this data to meet ever-increasing customer needs.


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