Social Technology

Away CEO Resigns After “Slack Bullying” Revealed in Report from The Verge: eDiscovery Trends

“Yes”, you say, “this is an interesting story, but what does it have to do with eDiscovery?”  And, why is there a picture of Yogi Berra on this story?  Read on and you’ll find out.

After an article (Emotional Baggage, written by Zoe Schiffer) by The Verge last week exposed a story where ex-employees claimed Away, a luggage startup hid a “toxic work culture”, the travel brand announced it hired the Lululemon executive Stuart Haselden as the company’s new CEO to replace current CEO Steph Korey, who is stepping down just four days after the article.

Like many fast-growing startups, Away’s workplace is organized around digital communication. It’s how employees talk, plan projects, and get feedback from co-workers and higher-ups. Away used the popular chat app Slack, which has the motto ‘where work happens.”  Away embraced Slack in more ways than one — its co-founder, Jen Rubio, is engaged to its CEO Stewart Butterfield — but it took things further than most startups. Employees were not allowed to email each other, and direct messages were supposed to be used rarely (never about work, and only for small requests, like asking if someone wanted to eat lunch). Private channels were also to be created sparingly and mainly for work-specific reasons, so making channels to, say, commiserate about a tough workday was not encouraged.

The rules had been implemented in the name of transparency, but employees say they created a culture of intimidation and constant surveillance. Once, when a suitcase was sent out with a customer’s incomplete initials stenciled onto the luggage tag, Korey said the person in charge must have been “brain dead” and threatened to take over the project.  Korey often framed her critiques in terms of Away’s core company values: thoughtful, customer-obsessed, iterative, empowered, accessible, in it together. Empowered employees didn’t schedule time off when things were busy, regardless of how much they’d been working. Customer-obsessed employees did whatever it took to make consumers happy, even if it came at the cost of their own well-being.

An example of that was the Slack message that Korey sent the day before Valentine’s Day in 2018, when she decided she was going to stop the team from taking any more time off. In a series of Slack messages that began at 3AM, she said, “I know this group is hungry for career development opportunities, and in an effort to support you in developing your skills, I am going to help you learn the career skill of accountability. To hold you accountable…no more [paid time off] or [work from home] requests will be considered from the 6 of you…I hope everyone in this group appreciates the thoughtfulness I’ve put into creating this career development opportunity and that you’re all excited to operate consistently with our core values.”  Four days later, when she noticed two managers still had time off on the calendar, she was livid. “If you all choose to utilize your empowerment to leave our customers hanging…you will have convinced me that this group does not embody Away’s core values,” she said.  In both cases, the emphasis was Korey’s.

Throughout, the article talks about how overworked the small customer team was in keeping up with customer emails and how responses from Away management (especially Korey) continued to drive and berate them.

Away indicated that the plan to change its CEO had been in the works for months.  For her part, Korey posted a message on Twitter last Friday (before the CEO announcement) admitting to her “mistakes” and promising that the company “will continue to work to improve.” As for those mistakes, she notes: “At times, I expressed myself in ways that hurt the team. … I was appalled and embarrassed reading [the messages]. … I’m sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it. It was wrong, plain and simple.”

The follow-up article from The Verge that discussed Korey’s resignation also discussed the use of Slack as part of the story, noting that “executives may begin rethinking the use of Slack. The kind of type-first, think-later style of communication that it inspires is categorically different than email, the technology that preceded it in companies like Away.”

So, what does this article have to do with eDiscovery?  It illustrates how communications in organizations are changing these days.  While the communication policies at Away are an extreme example, they certainly illustrate how communication is about much more than email these days – communications with colleagues via text and other messaging apps like Skype and Slack are routine in organizations these days as those messages are often the quickest way to get a response versus wading through a sea of emails.  When it comes to emails and urgent communications, as Yogi Berra once said about a popular restaurant in New York, “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”  And, all of that data is discoverable.

So, what do you think?  Does your organization use Slack or another messaging app for internal communications?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.  It’s never over ’til it’s over.  ;o)

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Today’s Webcast Will Show You How to Think Like a Millennial When Addressing eDiscovery Needs: eDiscovery Webcasts

As we learned in Tom O’Connor’s recent five part blog series, millennials may be changing eDiscovery (depending on your point of view).  Regardless, eDiscovery is changing and millennials may be a BIG part of that change.  TODAY’S webcast will help you think like a millennial to address your eDiscovery needs.

Today at noon CST (1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST), CloudNine will conduct the webcast Thinking Like a Millennial in eDiscovery.  This CLE-approved* webcast session will discuss how evolving technology trends are impacting eDiscovery today and how to think like a millennial to stay on top of those developing trends. Key topics include:

  • Understanding Millennials and How They Differ from Previous Generations
  • Drivers for Millennials’ Thinking Today
  • How Litigation Support and eDiscovery Has Evolved Over the Years
  • Challenges Posed by BIG Data and Variety of Data Sources
  • Ethical Duties and Rules for Understanding Technology
  • Impact of Millennials on Legal Technology and eDiscovery
  • Your Clients May Have More ESI Than You Think
  • Recommendations for Addressing Today and Future Technology Challenges

As always, I’ll be presenting the webcast, along with Tom O’Connor.  To register for it, click here – it’s not too late! Even if you can’t make it, go ahead and register to get a link to the slides and to the recording of the webcast (if you want to check it out later).  If you want to learn how the habits of millennials will impact your eDiscovery processes, this is the webcast for you!

So, what do you think?  Are you concerned about how the habits of millennials will impact your eDiscovery processes?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Forget CCPA. COPPA Just Cost YouTube and Google $170 Million: Cybersecurity Trends

Sure, we’ve been talking a lot the past couple of years about Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted in May 2018 and we’ve already seen one big fine here and another huge potential fine here.  And, we’ve been talking for over a year now about the California Consumer Privacy Act, which is scheduled to take effect next January 1st.  But, have we talked about “COPPA”?  Not, till now.  But, “COPPA” just cost YouTube and Google $170 million.

According to CBS News (Google to pay $170 million for violating kids’ privacy on YouTube, written by Sarah Min), Google will pay a record $170 million fine to settle a lawsuit filed by federal and state authorities that charged the internet giant with violating children’s privacy on YouTube, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Wednesday.

The settlement requires Google and YouTube to pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York state for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), by collecting personal information from children without their parents’ consent.

The FTC and the New York attorney general alleged in a complaint that YouTube gathered children’s personal information by using “cookies,” or personal identifiers, that track users online. According to the suit, YouTube earned millions of dollars by using the information to deliver targeted ads to kids.

COPPA requires online websites to obtain parental consent prior to collecting kids’ online usage information. The FTC and New York Attorney General Letitia James said that, while YouTube claimed it caters to a general audience, many of its online channels are aimed at children under the age 13. That requires the service to comply with COPPA guidelines.

“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. “Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids.”

For example, a toymaker with a YouTube channel could track people who viewed its videos to send ads for its own products that are targeted to children. The FTC said in its complaint that Google and YouTube told toymaker Mattel that YouTube “is today’s leader in reaching children age 6-11 against top TV channels.” It also said that the companies told Hasbro that YouTube is the “#1 website regularly visited by kids.”

But when it came to advertisers, the FTC alleged that YouTube told at least one marketer that the video-search company need not comply with COPPA, as it did not have users under the age of 13 on the platform.

Prior to Google’s settlement, the largest civil FTC penalty for a children’s data-privacy case was a $5.7 million for a case in February involving social media app TikTok. This penalty is nearly 30 times that one.  Still, critics say last week’s settlement still amounts to a drop in the bucket for Google, whose parent company Alphabet was sitting on $121 billion in cash and securities at the end of June.

Nonetheless, this penalty, along with Google’s GDPR fine from earlier this year, adds up to nearly $227 million.  That’s some serious money, even for a company like Google.  Great Google-y Moogle-y!

So, what do you think?  Will fines like these change how organizations track user data?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Here’s a Webcast to Learn How to Think Like a Millennial When Addressing eDiscovery Needs: eDiscovery Webcasts

As we learned in Tom O’Connor’s recent five part blog series, millennials, with their focus on mobile devices and social media sites, may be changing eDiscovery (depending on your point of view).  Regardless, eDiscovery is changing and millennials may be a BIG part of that change.  Here’s a webcast that will help you think like a millennial to address your eDiscovery needs.

On Wednesday, September 18th at noon CST (1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST), CloudNine will conduct the webcast Thinking Like a Millennial in eDiscovery.  This CLE-approved* webcast session will discuss how evolving technology trends are impacting eDiscovery today and how to think like a millennial to stay on top of those developing trends. Key topics include:

  • Understanding Millennials and How They Differ from Previous Generations
  • Drivers for Millennials’ Thinking Today
  • How Litigation Support and eDiscovery Has Evolved Over the Years
  • Challenges Posed by BIG Data and Variety of Data Sources
  • Ethical Duties and Rules for Understanding Technology
  • Impact of Millennials on Legal Technology and eDiscovery
  • Your Clients May Have More ESI Than You Think
  • Recommendations for Addressing Today and Future Technology Challenges

As always, I’ll be presenting the webcast, along with Tom O’Connor.  To register for it, click here.  Even if you can’t make it, go ahead and register to get a link to the slides and to the recording of the webcast (if you want to check it out later).  If you want to learn how the habits of millennials will impact your eDiscovery processes, this is the webcast for you!

So, what do you think?  Are you concerned about how the habits of millennials will impact your eDiscovery processes?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Another Case of Judicial “Friending”, But with a Different Result: eDiscovery Case Law

This is the second case we’ve seen recently regarding judges and Facebook “friendship” with other parties – here’s the other one where the case was the reversed and remanded for further proceedings before a different judge due to the judge’s Facebook “friendship” with one of the parties.  This time, it’s the judge’s Facebook friendship with one of the attorneys in the case.  This one had a different outcome.

In the Florida Bar Journal web site (Face-Off on Facebook: Judges and Lawyers as Social Media “Friends” in a Post-Herssein World, written by Ralph Artigliere, William F. Hamilton, David Hazouri, Jan L. Jacobowitz, and Meenu Sasser), the authors ask the question: “Should a judge be disqualified from a case based solely on a Facebook friendship with one of the attorneys?”

The Florida Supreme Court recently answered the question in the negative in Law Offices of Herssein & Herssein, P.A. v. United Servs. Auto. Ass’n, Case No. SC17-1848, (Fla. Nov. 15, 2018), when it held that “an allegation that a trial judge is a Facebook ‘friend’ with an attorney appearing before the judge, standing alone, is not a legally sufficient basis for disqualification.”

The decision brings Florida in line with the majority view in other states that “have adopted an attitude of, ‘it’s fine for judges to be on social media, but proceed with caution.’”

The authors do a great job discussing the scope of the decision, traditional standards for reasonable basis for a motion to disqualify, the explosion of social media, aspects of judicial disqualification historically and guidance for lawyers and judges after the decision, among other topics.  Instead of recounting them here, I encourage you to read the article.

When we covered the other case – In Re the Paternity of B.J.M., Appeal No. 2017AP2132 (Wis. App. Feb. 20, 2019) (technically after the case written about in the Florida Bar Journal site covered in this post) – in our webcast last week (Key eDiscovery Case Law Review for the First Half of 2019), I asked Tom O’Connor if judges should ever accept social media friend requests from litigants.  Of course, he gave the answer I would have expected: “it depends”.  In the case we covered, the judge deciding the motion accepted one of the party’s “friend” request on Facebook – after the parties had submitted their written arguments – and he ultimately ruled in her favor.  Even though the Judge didn’t “like” or comment on any of the party’s posts or reply to any of her comments on his posts, when he subsequently granted the party’s modification motion.  The Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, concluding that “the circuit court’s undisclosed ESM connection with a current litigant in this case created a great risk of actual bias, resulting in the appearance of partiality”, reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings before a different judge.  Clearly, timing played a part in that ruling.  So, should judges be friends with parties or attorneys appearing in their cases?  It depends.  :o)

So, what do you think?  Should judges accepting friend requests from litigants or attorneys disqualify them from ruling in their cases?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Sanctions Plaintiff for Spoliation of Facebook Account: eDiscovery Case Law

Shark Week on the Discovery Channel concludes this weekend, which means Case Week on the eDiscovery Channel (a.k.a., eDiscovery Daily) concludes as well (don’t be sad, it will be back next year!).  During our webcast on Wednesday on Key eDiscovery Case Law Review for the First Half of 2019 (which, if you missed it, can be viewed here), Tom O’Connor and I discussed several cases that couldn’t quite get to the stage of issuing an adverse inference sanction for spoliation of ESI.  This case shows that there are still cases out there where these sanctions happen – when the intent to deprive is clear enough.

In Cordova v. Walmart Puerto Rico, Inc. et al., No. 16-2195 (ADC) (D.P.R. July 16, 2019), Puerto Rico District Judge Aida M. Delgado-Colon granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion to dismiss for fraud on the Court, denying the defendant’s request for dismissal, but imposing a sanction of adverse inference regarding the content of the plaintiff’s Facebook page and her deletion of the related account.  Judge Delgado-Colon also ordered the defendant to “submit a proposed adverse-inference jury instruction to that effect before trial.”

Case Background

In this case filed by the plaintiff against the defendant alleging unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and unjust dismissal, when the defendant issued a set of interrogatories and request for production of documents asking the plaintiff to disclose and produce information and documents regarding her social media accounts, among other requests. The plaintiff responded, in essence, that she once had a social media account, but that it was closed and that she did not recall the name under which she had the account.

The defendant filed a motion to compel, contending that “the discovery was relevant in order to address plaintiff’s allegations of disability and her substantial allegations of severe mental, psychological, moral and emotional pain anguish and distress, loss of happiness and loss of capacity to enjoy life.”  The plaintiff claimed that prior to the discovery request, she had lost her cell phone, after which “she tried to access [her] Facebook account using [her] home computer” but got blocked out for unsuccessful attempts to log into the account and when she got a new phone, she tried again to access her Facebook account but was unable to do so and she did not “ha[ve] access to [the] Facebook account ever again.”  In a meeting between parties, the plaintiff was unsuccessful in accessing her Facebook account.

However, on September 19, 2018, the defendant was able to identify plaintiff’s public Facebook profile under the name `Córdova Eigna’—essentially, plaintiff’s second last-name and her first name spelled backwards.  That account was opened in 2009, the plaintiff updated her cover photo on August 23, 2018, and included a comment about `living happily ever after’ and posted a comment regarding the same as recently as September 6, 2018.  That same afternoon, however, the account became unavailable.  As a result, the defendant filed a motion, asserting that the plaintiff was duplicitous about the Facebook discovery in question and requested case dismissal.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Delgado-Colon found that “Mercado failed to comply with her obligation under Fed. R. Civ. 26(e) to supplement discovery responses to Walmart’s requests regarding her Facebook account. Specifically, taking as true Mercado’s contention that she was blocked out of said account for a period of time after having lost her cell phone, she was obligated to voluntarily inform Walmart when she later regained access and resumed her activities on Facebook. In that respect, the Court rejects Mercado’s explanation that she was unaware of having to do so because discovery had concluded, and Walmart’s summary judgment motion was pending adjudication. Those are not valid reasons for Mercado’s non-compliance with her disclosure obligations under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e), especially regarding an ongoing, contentious discovery issue and given that Mercado has been represented by counsel at all times in this case.”

As a result, Judge Delgado-Colon granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion, stating: “Walmart’s request for dismissal is denied. However, the Court hereby imposes as sanction an adverse inference regarding the content of Mercado’s Facebook page and her deletion of the related account. Accordingly, Walmart shall submit a proposed adverse-inference jury instruction to that effect before trial.”

So, what do you think?  Did the spoliation warrant the adverse inference instruction?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Judge’s Facebook Friendship with Party Causes Decision to Be Reversed and Remanded to Different Judge: eDiscovery Case Law

In the case In Re the Paternity of B.J.M., Appeal No. 2017AP2132 (Wis. App. Feb. 20, 2019), the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, concluding that “the circuit court’s undisclosed ESM connection with a current litigant in this case {by accepting a Facebook “friend” request from the litigant} created a great risk of actual bias, resulting in the appearance of partiality”, reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings before a different judge.

Case Background

In this case where the parties entered into an order granting parties Timothy Miller and Angela Carroll joint legal custody and shared physical placement of a minor child in 2011, Carroll filed a motion to modify the court order on the basis that Miller had engaged in a pattern of domestic abuse against Carroll. After the parties had submitted their written arguments, the judge deciding the motion – Judge Michael Bitney – accepted Carroll’s friend request on Facebook. Subsequently, Carroll “liked” eighteen of Judge Bitney’s Facebook posts and commented on two of his posts – none of which related to the pending litigation.  Judge Bitney did not “like” or comment on any of Carroll’s posts, nor did he reply to any of her comments on his posts; however, Carroll’s other activities (“liking” multiple posts from other parties and “sharing” one third-party photograph) did appear on Judge Bitney’s “newsfeed.” One of these shared stories related to domestic violence.

On July 14, 2017, Judge Bitney issued a decision granting Carroll’s modification motion. After the decision, Miller learned that Judge Bitney and Carroll were Facebook friends during the period prior to making his ruling, and moved to reconsider the judge’s decision.  At a hearing on Miller’s motion, Judge Bitney confirmed that he had accepted Carroll’s friend request after the custody hearing and before rendering his written decision. However, he concluded he was not subjectively biased by accepting Carroll’s “friend” request, because he already “had decided how I was going to rule, even though it hadn’t been reduced to writing.” Further, he concluded that “[e]ven given the timing of” his and Carroll’s Facebook connection, the circumstances did not “rise[] to the level of objective bias. . . .” Consequently, he denied Miller’s motion. Miller appealed the decision.

Court’s Ruling

In an opinion written by Justice J. Seidl, he noted that “This case involves what appears to be an issue of first impression in Wisconsin: a claim of judicial bias arising from a judge’s use of electronic social media (ESM)” and stated that “we need not determine whether a bright-line rule prohibiting the judicial use of ESM is appropriate or necessary”.  He also referenced a New Mexico supreme court in Thomas as “particularly instructive”, which said:

“While we make no bright-line ban prohibiting judicial use of social media, we caution that ‘friending,’ online postings, and other activity can easily be misconstrued and create an appearance of impropriety… A judge’s online ‘friendships,’ just like a judge’s real-life friendships, must be treated with a great deal of care.”

The opinion also stated that “the time when Judge Bitney and Carroll became Facebook ‘friends’ would cause a reasonable person to question the judge’s partiality. Although Judge Bitney apparently had thousands of Facebook ‘friends,’ Carroll was not simply one of the many people who ‘friended’ him prior to this litigation. Rather, Carroll was a current litigant who reached out to Judge Bitney and requested to become his Facebook ‘friend’ after testifying at a contested hearing, at which Judge Bitney was the sole decision-maker. Judge Bitney then took the affirmative step to accept this ‘friend’ request before issuing his decision in this case…This timing creates a great risk of actual bias and a resulting appearance of partiality because, even assuming that a Facebook ‘friendship’ does not denote the type of relationship traditionally associated with the term ‘friendship,’ it is unquestionably evidence of some type of affirmative social connection…Carroll’s choice to send a ‘friend’ request to Judge Bitney, combined with Judge Bitney’s choice to accept that request before issuing his decision, conveys the impression that Carroll was in a special position to influence Judge Bitney’s ultimate decision – a position not available to individuals that he had not ‘friended,’ such as Miller.”

As a result, the court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings before a different judge.

So, what do you think?  Should judges accepting friend requests from litigants disqualify them from ruling in their cases?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Hat tip to Sharon Nelson’s Ride the Lightning blog for coverage of this case.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Facebook Will Shift to Emphasize Encrypted Ephemeral Messages, Zuckerberg Says: eDiscovery Trends

In a post to Facebook last week, founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined a vision of the future that includes end-to-end encryption and an ephemeral lifespan for private messages and photos.  Zuckerberg said that encryption will be one of the keys to Facebook’s future — and that the company is willing to be banned in countries that refuse to let it operate as a result.

According to The Verge (Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will shift to emphasize encrypted ephemeral messages, written by Casey Newton), Zuckerberg wrote in a 3,200 word “missive”: “As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms.  Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication.”

Public social networks have their place, Zuckerberg added, but he sees a large future opportunity built on “a simpler platform that’s focused on privacy first.” That would mark a sharp reversal for Facebook, which has grown into one of the world’s wealthiest companies by inventing exotic new methods of personal data collection and allowing brands to sell advertising against it. Facebook has spent the past two years mired in scandals around data privacy, starting with last year’s revelations around Cambridge Analytica and continuing through the biggest data breach in company history.

“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever,” Zuckerberg says. “This is the future I hope we will help bring about.“

From an eDiscovery standpoint, the ability to customize the lifespan of messages could wreak havoc, as discussed in this article in Legaltech News®, written by Frank Ready:

“The biggest problem is how are we going to train lawyers [and] how are they going to train their clients to preserve it?” said attorney and forensic technologist Craig Ball.  “A lot of people got into hot water or at least had to try to extricate themselves from hot water because they failed to disable the auto-delete, auto-purge function of their email collections,” Ball said.

Now, they may need to remember to change the settings for their Facebook messages as well when litigation hits.

“People don’t really have an appreciation for social media being evidence and so people will on occasion just delete things, not thinking they are doing anything bad,” said Mary Mack, executive director of the Association of Certified E-discovery Specialists (ACEDS).

Of course, ephemeral messaging has already been at issue in litigation, with the Waymo v. Uber case and Uber’s use of Wickr, an ephemeral messaging application, for internal communications.  Waymo contended that Uber was using Wickr to “hide the ball” with regard to its internal communications, but California District Judge William Alsup declined to severely sanction Uber, given that Waymo was also using its own ephemeral messaging app for communications.

Of course, there is no duty to preserve those messages until litigation is anticipated.  As Kelly Twigger, CEO of eDiscovery Assistant noted, “We’re surmising at this point but you might start to see, you know, a lot more attention paid to what is the date that the duty to preserve arises.”

We’ll see.  Craig, Mary and Kelly will be among the many eDiscovery experts that will be at the University of Florida E-Discovery Conference next week (I’m honored to be there again too!).  While it’s my understanding that the conference is booked as far as in-person attendance, you can still register for livestream attendance here.

So, what do you think?  Will ephemeral messaging make things easier or harder for attorneys?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Now, Wait Just an Internet Minute!: eDiscovery Trends

Have I mentioned lately that I love…an infographic?  Well, let me mention it again!  The past three years, we’ve taken a look at a terrific infographic each year that illustrated what happens within the internet in a typical minute.  Last week, the 2019 internet minute graphic came out, so, let’s take a look at what happens in an internet minute in 2019.

The updated graphic shown above, once again created by Lori Lewis, illustrates what happens within the internet in a typical minute in 2019.  As always, there are a couple of different categories tracked in this graphic than last year’s, but most are the same and those that are carried forward are, once again, (almost) all up compared to last year – some more than others.  Once again, Netflix more than doubled and Instagram nearly doubled, while others sources showed more incremental gains.

Here is a comparison between 2018 and 2019 (we previously published the graphic for 2016 and 2017):

Needless to say, I’ll be discussing this in my presentation next week at the University of Florida E-Discovery Conference.

In her post, Lori also goes through some of her observations on the trends.  Once again, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the numbers, so take them for what it’s worth.  So, why do I love infographics so much?  One reason is because they make my job easier!  :o)

So, what do you think?  How have the challenges of various sources of data affected your organization?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Emoji Are Showing Up in Court Cases More and More: eDiscovery Trends

Without a doubt, our forms of communication are continuing to evolve from just email and we now have to add social media, text messaging and other messaging apps as forms of communication that need to be routinely preserved, collected, processed, reviewed and produced.  But, it’s not just the forms of communication that are changing, it’s the way we communicate that is changing as well.  So, you may or may not be surprised that emoji (yes, the plural of “emoji” is still “emoji”, at least officially) are showing up in court cases exponentially.

As discussed in The Verge (Emoji are showing up in court cases exponentially, and courts aren’t prepared, written by Dani Lee), emoji are showing up as evidence in court more frequently with each passing year. Between 2004 and 2019, there was an exponential rise in emoji and emoticon references in US court opinions, with over 30 percent of all cases (53 out of 171 all time) appearing in 2018, according to Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman, who has been tracking all of the references to “emoji” and “emoticon” that show up in US court opinions.  Yes, there’s a guy who tracks that stuff!  Here’s a chart from Goldman, showing the rise of cases since 2004:

By the way, you do know the difference between an emoji and an emoticon, right?  An emoticon is created out of text, primarily via the use of punctuation marks, whereas an emoji is a small image, a pictograph. Nearly everyone has used an emoji and emoticon at least once in their lives, even if they didn’t know what it was called.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of emoticons… ;o)

Goldman has written extensively on the subject of “emoji law” – including his blog post Emoji Law 2018 Year-in-Review and his paper published last year titled Emojis and the Law.

So far, the emoji and emoticons have rarely been important enough to sway the direction of a case, but as they become more common, the ambiguity in how emoji are displayed and what we interpret emoji to mean could become a larger issue for courts to contend with.  Want a couple of examples?  Here you go:

  • Bay Area prosecutors were trying to prove that a man arrested during a prostitution sting was guilty of pimping charges, and among the evidence was a series of Instagram DMs he’d allegedly sent to a woman. One read: “Teamwork make the dream work” with high heels and money bag emoji placed at the end. Prosecutors said the message implied a working relationship between the two of them. The defendant said it could mean he was trying to strike up a romantic relationship. Another message from the defendant included the crown emoji, which was said to signify that the “pimp is the king.”
  • In 2017, a couple in Israel was charged thousands of dollars in fees after a court ruled that their use of emoji to a landlord signaled an intent to rent his apartment. After sending an enthusiastic text confirming that they wanted the apartment, which contained a string of emoji including a champagne bottle, a squirrel, and a comet, they stopped responding to the landlord’s texts and went on to rent a different apartment. The court declared that the couple acted in bad faith, ruling that the “icons conveyed great optimism” that “naturally led to the Plaintiff’s great reliance on the Defendants’ desire to rent his apartment,” according to Room 404.

Still, it’s rare for cases to turn on the interpretations of emoji. “They show up as evidence, the courts have to acknowledge their existence, but often they’re immaterial,” Goldman says. “That’s why many judges decide to say ‘emoji omitted’ because they don’t think it’s relevant to the case at all.” But emoji are a critical part of communication, and in cases where transcripts of online communication are being read to the jury, they need to be characterized as well instead of being skipped over. “You could imagine if you got a winky face following the text sentence, you’re going to read that sentence very differently than without the winky face,” he says. In the “pimp” case above, the ruling didn’t ultimately hinge on the interpretation of emoji, but they still provided evidentiary support.

Nonetheless, as Craig Ball has noted in several presentations that I’ve seen, the handling of emoji and emoticons will become increasingly important in discovery over time.  And, here’s one more challenge to leave you with – emoji often render differently across platforms, so the emoji you see may not be the emoji your audience sees in social media posts or text/other messages.  We may have to consult those Egyptian hieroglyphics textbooks soon to see how they managed to communicate thousands of years ago!

So, what do you think?  Are you surprised that emoji and emoticons are becoming an increasing part of legal cases?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.