The New York Law Journal On-line has posted an article warning of the dangers companies adopting Voice Over IP might encounter with e-discovery:
Depending on the VoIP system in place, the manner in which such data is retained may be under the direct control of the company and its IT professionals, as opposed to the phone company. Further, VoIP data will likely be subject to a company’s or client’s backup and retention policies. Unlike traditional voicemails, VoIP data may prove difficult to delete. Instead, as is common with e-mails, redundant backup systems will ensure that additional copies may continue to persist at many levels. As an added complication, VoIP messages cannot easily be searched by subject or text. In fact, searches may be limited to such parameters as caller ID information, recipient, and date and time of call.
Without proper planning, a client or company may be faced with hundreds or even thousands of hours of audio data that cannot be easily parsed if production is required. This situation poses a significant problem in light of recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that expressly define “sound recordings” as “electronically stored information” and impose new requirements for disclosure, case management, planning, and form of production of all electronically stored information.
What is VoIP? you ask. Ah. The article does a nice job of explaining:
VoIP, also known as IP Telephony, is the real-time transmission of voice signals using the Internet Protocol (IP) over the public Internet or a private data network. In simpler terms, VoIP converts the voice signal from a telephone into a digital signal that travels over the Internet, rather than over the traditional phone company-owned PSTN. As the caller speaks, the analog sound signal from his or her voice is rapidly converted into a series of small chunks of digital data commonly referred to as “packets.” Rather than routing the data over a dedicated line (similar to the way the PSTN functions), the data packets flow through a chaotic network along thousands of possible paths in a process called “packet switching.” Compared to the traditional PSTN, packet switching is very efficient because it lets the network route the packets along the least congested and cheapest lines.
The article goes on to advocate incorporating legal considerations of e-discovery into the design of any corporate VoIP system.
This is a specific example for my popular general thesis that data is everywhere, and the world is nothing more than a huge database. Data sources will continue to multiply and become ever more varied, so although experts love to discuss the “commoditization” of the the basic e-discovery process, at the upper levels of the profession, there is just such a maze of problems, and an arsenal of solutions.