by John Burchfield

Collecting data from social media is different than your average data collection process. When we were faced with collecting from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and several webmail sites, we developed a data collection procedure specific to the case. For that case, we also had to come up with a unique format to present the social media data to our client in a user-friendly interface.

Several questions arise with social media data collection:

  • How do the various webmail and email formats become standardized and able to be deduplicated?
  • What authorization do you need from service providers to collect information without violating the user agreements?
  • What can legally be collected from social media accounts about a user’s friends and connections?

iStock_000015899912XSmallThe data collection procedure for each social media site is different because each platform has unique code and variations and runs on its own hardware and software platform. The sites are also constantly changing so it’s important to keep up on the procedures.

Some social media sites—like Facebook and Twitter—allow users to easily collect their own data. We still suggest that an eDiscovery expert supervise all data collection, even for those platforms.

Similarly, webmail comes in several formats and multiple methods must be used to accommodate this variety. For webmail, deduplication is challenging with several email formats because the metadata is stored differently on each platform. There is no one application that can properly deduplicate across multiple email platforms. For the case DSi worked on, we developed a custom deduplication software for webmail.

Companies may need to have proper authorization from the service provider before starting data collection. Each platform has its own terms of service—or user agreement between the service provider and end user. It’s important for companies to have proper authorization from the service provider to avoid violating the user agreement.

touching screen on tablet-pcSocial media data collection is complicated. Courts frown on “friending” someone as a pretense to collect that person’s information. The expectation of privacy varies depending on the platform and how the content is distributed through it, but any content posted online or emailed can be collected for a legal matter, even if it is private. At the same time, a company can’t collect information from someone just because that person is linked with the custodian.

As eDiscovery evolves to encompass the demands of proliferating social media platforms, whose users are growing at a geometric rate, it will become increasingly necessary for eDiscovery firms to place an emphasis upon learning and understanding the best practices involved in social media collection. You can learn more about social media data collection procedures by clicking here to download our “The Wild West of Social Media Evidence Collection” white paper.

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