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Posted on: September 22, 2017

in Blog

Why it's Crucial to Have a Corporate Mobile Device Policy

The more we rely on mobile devices as vehicles for business communications and entertainment, the more data we create and consume. For every additional bit and byte that is born in the ether, there is a heightened chance that the information will become fodder for eDiscovery.  Despite this increasingly large amount of information, marooned mobile device data can provide a number of unique hurdles throughout the litigation lifecycle.  Every step could potentially expose variables and scenarios that challenge even the most experienced eDiscovery counsel and technicians.  The challenge is amplified by the sheer number of different device models available in today’s competitive, lucrative, and growing mobile communication market.  Each device, from pocket-sized mobile phones to tablets that range from the size of a paperback thriller to a traditional manila folder, can foster its own unique snowflake of devilish eDiscovery complications.

Manage Your Data with a Corporate Mobile Device Poilcy

For law firms and corporations, the challenge is not to understand the technical architecture of each and every unique device, but rather how the devices utilized by your custodians generate and manage data. Once an organization maps an inventory of its own unique portfolio of cell phones and tablets, a consistent and repeatable process should be instituted in order to ensure data is properly identified, preserved, and considered for use in internal investigations, regulatory and law enforcement scenarios, and eDiscovery proceedings. 

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Thankfully, enterprise technology usage policies and data retention schemes are more ubiquitous today than in years past, and the approach to information governance should be no different with mobile devices. In the same way that email evolved from a convenient way to conduct a conversation without involving the US Postal Service or a telephone, SMS messaging has become a more widely accepted and legitimate mode of communication for business people and teenagers alike.

Early efforts at preserving and producing SMS messages from flip phones and Blackberries were commonly avoided through a facade of undue burden and cost. However, as mobile technology becomes cheaper, more ubiquitous, and even wearable, litigants who unilaterally determine that these short communications are inaccessible do so at their own peril. It’s common knowledge that the best offense is a great defense, and the same applies to governance of mobile communications. This guide will help you engineer proactive policies and preservations plans around SMS messaging, one of today’s most popular ways to communicate.

Mobile Device Usage is Not a Fad

The continuing trend of growing mobile device usage is no secret and the metrics clearly support the essentially universal adoption we associate with traditional land-line telephones. In 2011, only 17% of the global population did not own at least a basic mobile phone; by 2013 the “off the grid” population fell to 9%. Furthermore, during the same period of time, the adoption of smartphones, which have features resembling a personal computer such as email connectivity, digital cameras, and GPS location functionality, jumped from 35% in 2011 to 56% in 2013. 2013 marked the first year where over half of the world’s population owned a smartphone, a development that shows no sign of illness. By 2020, the total number of smartphone subscriptions is expected to reach an astonishing 6.1 billion.

It should be no surprise that an increase in smartphone proliferation has led to a  fundamental change in how  people access and interact  with their data and each other. A hearty 33.4% of global web usage in 2015 came from mobile sources, up from 28.9% in 2014. It would certainly not be a leap of faith to suggest that metric will continue to evolve as the global population continues its insatiable demand for smartphones and the always-connected lifestyle.

All of these trends provide an important bellwether for eDiscovery, which should closely trace the increase in mobile device usage to a corresponding increase in ESI generated from mobile sources. More business meetings and routine correspondence are being conducted on the go, the nearly permanent records of which are potentially relevant to any number of litigation scenarios. 54% of users open emails from their mobile devices, up from just 10% in 2011. That trend comes at the expense of email viewing on desktop computers, which is down from 58% in 2011 to only 22%.

Understand Your Devices Before Creating a Policy

Combine email with SMS messaging and it becomes clear that mobile phones and tablets are thorny ESI caches that organizations need to be aware of in the event of litigation. 92% of US smartphone owners use SMS messaging, and those users send an average of 111 messages per week. Corporations need to understand how these messages and emails are stored in order to institute appropriate usage, retention, and incident response policies.

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