A look at the issues surrounding the disclosure or discovery process

Although documents produced today look similar to those produced twenty years ago all documents today come from computers. Copies are not kept on carbon paper but on disks and on tape backups. This change has meant that there are different risks associated with the maintenance of true records of events and with attaching the proper weighting to modern documentary evidence. However the infrastructure of organisations producing documents has also changed.

Consider for a moment a medium sized company - even without consideration of the internet. Thirty years ago it would produce letters on electric typewriters and keep carbon copies in filing cabinets. Today the medium sized company (even without internet facilities) produces letters on computers linked together in a network. The local area network of one office is linked to another local area network in another office many miles away. Information is held in databases which are replicated from location to location. Sometimes this replication is done over leased telephone lines or using broadband services.

Now factor in the internet. Business today is not conducted by an exchange of letters but by exchanges of e-mail, instant messaging, phone calls and the like. Sometimes all the relevant transactions are between a user and a website without any human intervention by the vendor. Sometimes the transactions are made by a user on a Blackberry or on a smart mobile phone.

Internet savvy companies are moving their businesses to the cloud - outsourcing all their data processing requirements to companies such as Amazon or Sun. Google via its Google Sites system offer very sophisticated cloud services. Thin client systems where very little data is held locally are becoming more common the norm. Disclosure rules for cloud computing? These are in a state of flux.

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