Quick e-discovery thoughts on today’s Facebook announcements

Watching Mark Zuckerberg and Andy Samberg introduce Facebook’s new “timeline” feature, only one thought springs to mind: E-discovery will have to change all over again.

They timeline is a new profile feature that allows you to document your life. Moreover, Facebook introduced new “open map” features that allow you to share “casual” information in a stream. Both have profound implications for human relations, IT, and legal departments across the country.

Facebook and Google are locked in a fevered battle to monetize the streams of social data we are throwing off every day. But for most people, lots of life happens at work. Much of our business life depends on social relationships. Facebook and Google+ are trying to let us filter the data sent to professional and social contacts. But at the end of the day, both Facebook and Google are working toward platforms where all of our interpersonal interactions use a single platform.

We’ve been talking about these trends for a while, but the time to think about them has run out. The future is here. Consider:
• These social platforms, already, are a method for conducting business. Previous generations used personal conversations, letters, and e-mail, but a building wave of future business leaders will use integrated social communication platforms like Facebook or Google to handle all communication.
• For those doing business this way, it will be virtually impossible to separate personal and business communication.
• While you can limit the display of this information in Facebook to others, the data will continue to accumulate in a limited number of places.
• Under the current rules of discovery, your entire account, your entire timeline, your entire “open map” will be discoverable.
• Listening to the post-introduction webcasts on Facebook’s developers conference, individuals asked questions like “will my timeline contains all of my relationships, even ex-boyfriends?” The answer is yes. Indeed your entire calendar, phone call history, purchase history, could be discoverable in one fell swoop.
• These platforms will become incredibly valuable bottlenecks in E discovery. The most valuable vendor contract available in today’s market is the Facebook subpoena response team. In every case, every dispute, every arbitration, every traffic ticket defense, Facebook will be the first stop for discovery.

Some people will be upset about the level of information gathered by these social media platforms. But so long as “it’s about who you know not what you know,” social platforms will be able to offer valuable tools for no upfront cost. So far, it has been a nearly irresistible offer for millions of consumers and companies.