Document Retention and Protection

Organizations generate a lot of data, and usually want to protect it. They store it in reliable media, secure it from unauthorized use, and back it up. This information, especially historical data such as sales history, contracts, emails, etc. is essential to make decisions pertinent to the future of the organization. Many organizations use a Document Management System (DMS) to store them. These systems then ensure they are versioned over time so that it is easy to find them, and see the various changes that were applied, while at the same time enforcing retention rules that dictate what must and must not be kept. This forms a repository to ensure data is both secure and can be located easily.

Which made it interesting to know that Google, king of search engines, was tripped up by a search engine on documents in their own possession. (Read full article here)

Google has been sued by Oracle for use of a programming technology called Java in their Android phone and tablet operating system. Most lawsuits have a discovery period, in which each litigant turns over all documents pertinent to the case, but can exclude any client-attorney privileged documents. For example, original blueprints of an alleged copycat product must be turned over, but a letter between an attorney for the litigant and the engineer which discusses the blueprints is protected and can be held back from disclosure.

In order to facilitate discovery assembly, legal analysts use tools similar to the Google search engine, which allows them to collect information from across the organization’s systems using keywords like “Java” while at the same time excluding documents with phrases like “attorney work product”. In this case Google was caught by a draft email stored on the server; one of 9 drafts before the final. This particular version stated that Google should license the Java technology from Oracle. But because it was an early draft, it did not include the key phrase “attorney work product”, and was released to Oracle’s attorneys. It may change the case completely.

This illustrates the key point: that you need to know what you keep and what you should not keep, and how it is encoded. Document Management Systems can help with this, by setting up and enforcing retention or coding rules, they can automatically add a tag, or delete documents over a certain age.

Google shows us a great lesson; what do you learn from it? If you would like an opportunity to discuss how you can put the right systems and polices in place, feel free to place your feedback below.