Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Barry Murphy. Published: 2012-03-13 13:00:41  There are some that believe social media is replacing email.  In reality, it will take time for social media adoption to occur and for everyone to abandon email – lots of time perhaps.  As companies transition and begin to leverage social media, there is the opportunity to avoid the mistakes made in the email generation.  One thing is clear: companies that dive into social media without the right policies and solutions to govern usage will encounter information governance and eDiscovery nightmares down the road.This scenario has played out time and time again, most recently with email in mid 1990s.  Originally, email was a tool reserved only for the highest level executives in a company.  But, it quickly rolled out to the masses and became the dominant communication tool of the 2000sEmail, like social media, proved to be beneficial to businesses by easing and speeding collaboration.  But, email also created costly nightmares in the form of reactive eDiscovery.  With this new form of collaboration came new forms of data types and metadata types and the compression of mass amounts of email into personal archives (e.g. PSTs) that required expensive processing when litigation arose.  Email, and most electronically stored information (ESI), was still fairly new, so companies could not foresee eDiscovery challenges associated with the massive volume of email coming.  Who could have known how expensive it would be to process Terabytes of email only to find that a small percentage was even relevant to the case at hand?In the social media realm, however, companies cannot hide behind ignorance.  Instead, they can get ahead of social media by putting in place governance policies, processes, and tools to ensure that the email history lesson informs these new methods of collaboration.Social media, like e-mail, has gained traction. In order to avoid the mistakes made in the email generation, companies must figure out ways on how to best collect and preserve social media content in the event it is needed for eDiscovery.  Today, this practice is extremely immature.  Across the board, 15% or less of eDJ’s The Cloud and eDiscovery survey respondents indicated having had to collect from a popular social media service.The solutions market is presenting a number of different ways to collect and preserve social media.  eDJ has talked with a number of companies that offer solutions in this area, including: Actiance; Autonomy; Gnip; Hanzo Archives Hearsay; NextPoint; SocialWare; SocialLogix; and X1 Discovery.  The approaches to collect and preserve social media vary and include:

  • Connectors to publishers’ APIs
  • Web crawling
  • Snapshots / screen-grabs
  • Site-specific methods like Twitter’s “public follow” feature that enables access to all the past Tweets of a specified user (up to 3200 past tweets) and any new Tweets in real-time without generating a formal “follow” request

In general, connecting to a publisher’s API is going to be the most thorough method (in terms of getting at additional metadata that may be required for “forensic” collections).  However, that approach may not be reasonable for all companies the crawling or snapshotting approach may be enough.  Keep in mind, too, that some solutions act a proxy for end-users, meaning that users must basically hand over credentials to their accounts.  That might affect how employees use social media because if employees know they are being monitored, they may not be as social as they otherwise would be.  Companies must think about how they want employees to use social media and form opinions on whether the content is private or not.There is another email lesson to apply to social media collection and preservation.  When email archiving first started (not so much for eDiscovery, but to improve backup windows on production mail servers), companies archived all emails, typically through journaling.  That led to bloated archives that broke down and became more expensive than they were worth.  Companies need to get ahead of the social media curve and have granular policies on what social media to collect, how to preserve it, and how long to archive it.  There is no need to simply keep everything; the right policies and defensible execution of those policies will mange the risks that social media can pose.

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