pst Files and eDiscovery

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Keywords: eDiscovery, pst

I am trying to establish the current legal thinking on eDiscovery within a pst file.  Can an employer search and index company email?  Any obvious personal email found would be purged from the results before the employer sees them and no personal data would be used.  Any assistance you can give would be appreciated.  Thanks.

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eDiscovery within OSTs, PSTs, and exchange server files requires location of all information identified as being relevant, which may also require PST and server file restoration from backup tapes. As many company's require that all employees only use company equipment for business use, if the employee uses the company email for personal use, those emails may very well be discoverable. It should not be assumed that personal emails would be purged before an employers sees them, as the very existence of personal emails may be the cause of the action, so they would be maintained and used in litigation. I hope this helps

R. Blatt, MIT, LIT
Sr. EDF Forensic Examiner,
ACFEI/ABHS CHS Level-III Certified
Electronic Image Designers, Inc.
www.eid-inc.com

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The operative word in your query is "company." The .PST file, personal e-mails included, is "company" property. It is searchable, can be indexed and is discoverable.

Cheers, Pat

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Thanks for your responses, they are very much along my thought lines. What I am actually looking for is some sort of definitive answer, backed up with legal precedent or regulatory framework. Does anyone know of any documented support for these answers? We need real evidence that there are no data protection issues, either within Europe or the USA. Thanks.

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I would suggest you review the updated US federal discovery rules and various case law from appeals court levels only for cases here in the US. Because only you know the specific issues/details of your case, you will need to review various cases to determine what is related/relevant or not.

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Many thanks for your input, it is as I thought, but was sneakily trying to find a "quick fix" - time to hit the research I think. Thanks again.

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I’ll preface this by noting that I’m not an attorney and that this shouldn’t be taken as legal advice and that my experience is solely with US laws and regulations. If you want specific case citations it might be best to get in touch with an attorney or eDiscovery vendor.

In my experience, the type of email file shouldn't matter, whether it's a .pst, .ost, live or archived messages, etc. the rules are the same. (The only exception is sometimes backups of email systems; in the US these could be argued to be "not reasonably accessible" per the FRCP, although with new technologies that's been changing).

The easiest part of your question to answer is whether an employer can search and index company email. In the US the answer is definitely yes. However, in some very limited circumstances what they can _do_ with that email (who they can provide it to, whether they need to redact portions of it, etc.) may be restricted (for example, a recent case indicated that an employee’s communication with his or her attorney, even if it is on an employer’s system, may be covered by attorney-client-privilege). But the key thing to understand is that it is the employer’s right (and in fact obligation) to search their email (and other systems) for data that may be responsive to legal hold or discovery.

Regulations and case law regarding privacy of employees' email on employer's systems differs widely between Europe and the US. It’s my understanding that _generally_ in the US the contents of employer's systems belongs to the employer while in Europe employees have more ownership/protection of personal information they may share using an employer's system.

These are just a few of the many eDiscovery resources that could be helpful in your research: http://www.ediscoverylaw.com/, https://www.cgoc.com/resources/privacy-resources, http://www.krollontrack.com/resource-library/, http://www.fiosinc.com/e-discovery-knowledge-center/default.aspx.

Good luck!

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Thanks Cathy - this is really excellent information. Your assistance is very much appreciated. :)

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