eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscoveryJournal Webinar: More on Native Format Production and Redaction

As noted yesterday, eDiscoveryJournal conducted a webinar last Friday with some notable eDiscovery industry thought leaders regarding issues associated with native format production and redaction, including George Socha, Craig Ball and Tom O’Connor, and moderated by Greg Buckles, co-founder of eDiscoveryJournal, who has over 20 years experience in discovery and consulting.

What follows is more highlights of the discussion, based on my observations and notes from the webinar.  If anyone who attended the webinar feels that there are any inaccuracies in this account, please feel free to submit a comment to this post and I will be happy to address it.

More highlights of the discussion:

  • Redaction – Is it Possible, Practical, Acceptable?: George said it’s certainly possible and practical, but the biggest problem he sees is that redaction is often done without agreement between parties as to how it will be done.  Tom noted that the knee jerk reaction for most of his clients is “no” – to do it effectively, you need to know your capabilities and what information you’re trying to change.  Craig indicated that it’s not only possible and practical, but often desirable; however, when removing information such as columns from databases or spreadsheets, you need to know data dependencies and the possibility of “breaking” the file by removing that data.  Craig also remarked that certain file types (such as Microsoft Office files) are now stored in XML format, making it easier to redact them natively without breaking functionality.
  • How to Authenticate Redacted Files based on HASH Value?:  Craig said you don’t – it’s a changing of the file.  Although Craig indicated that some research has been done on “near-HASH” values, George noted that there is currently no such thing and that the HASH value changes completely with a change as small as one character.  Tom noted that it’s “tall weeds” when discussing HASH values with clients to authenticate files as many don’t fully understand the issues – it’s a “where angels fear to tread” concern.
  • Biggest Piece of Advice Regarding Redaction?: Craig said that redaction of native files is hard – So what?  Is the percentage of files requiring redaction so great that it needs to drive the process?  If it’s a small percentage, you can always simply TIFF the files requiring redaction and redact the TIFFs.  George indicated that one of the first things he advises clients to do is to work with the other side on how to handle redactions and if they won’t work with you, go to the judge to address it.  Tom indicated that he asks the client questions to find out what issues are associated with the redaction, such as what the client wants to accomplish, percentage of redaction expected, etc. and then provides advice based on those answers.
  • Redaction for Confidentiality (e.g., personal information, trade secrets, etc.): George noted that, while in many cases, it’s not a big issue; in some cases, it’s a huge issue.  There are currently 48 states that have at least some laws regarding safeguarding personal information and also efforts underway to do so at a national level.  We’re a long way from coming up with an effective way to address this issue.  Craig said that sometimes there are ways to address programmatically – in one case where he served as special master, his client had a number of spreadsheets with columns of confidential data and they were able to identify a way to handle those programmatically.  Tom has worked on cases where redaction of social security numbers through search and replace was necessary, but that there was a discussion and agreement with opposing counsel before proceeding.
  • How to Guarantee that Redaction Actually Deletes the Data and Doesn’t Just Obscure it?: Tom said he had a situation on a criminal case where they received police reports from the Federal government with information on protected witnesses, which they gave back.  There is not a “cookie-cutter” approach, but you have to understand the data, what’s possible and provide diligent QC.  Craig indicated that he conducts searches for the redacted data to confirm it has been deleted.  Greg noted that you have to make sure that the search tool will reach all of the redacted areas of the file.  George said too often people simply fail to check the results – providers often say that they can’t afford to perform the QC, but law firms often don’t do it either, so it falls through the cracks.  Tom recommends to his law firm clients that they take responsibility to perform that check as they are responsible for the production.  As part of QC, it’s important to have a different set of eyes and even different QC/search tools to confirm successful redaction.

Thanks to eDiscoveryJournal for a very informative webinar!

So, what do you think?  Do you have any other questions about native format production and redaction?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.