A physicist at the University of Portsmouth recently published research claiming that digital information should be considered a fifth type of matter, alongside gas, liquid, solid and plasma. The study, spurred by scientists’ interest in the effects of the world’s growing digital infrastructure, predicts that bits of digital information will equal the atoms of matter on Earth within the next 150 years.
While this may seem like a radical claim with far-off implications, it holds relevance today. Because, although data has not yet reached a tipping point of becoming wholly unmanageable, it has already introduced an array of new challenges and risks that corporations are struggling to meet. Many of these challenges have been accelerated over the last year as people shifted to remote work and adopted new cloud-based collaboration and productivity applications that enabled business continuity during the pandemic.
In this four-part blog series, I’ll discuss the key data challenges and trends that our clients are facing with the growth of data, and the importance of investing in proactive programmes and data expertise to manage and reduce the subsequent risks. The posts will cover the following issues:
- E-discovery and data privacy issues that have emerged alongside the expanding data footprint
- The impact of data on M&A and antitrust compliance
- The breadth of current and emerging data privacy risks
- The state of reactive vs. proactive approaches to information governance, compliance and investigations preparedness
- Developments in class action litigations and claims management processes
- The role of analytics, digital forensics, data expertise and managed services in handling the burden of data in an e-discovery and investigations context
Given that all these issues centre around the growing data footprint, it makes sense to first understand exactly what that is and how it is impacting corporate risk. The massively increased use of collaboration and messaging platforms such as Teams, Zoom and Slack has resulted in an explosion of data types and volumes that are now coming into scope as potential sources of evidence in matters. This shift away from looking solely at traditional sources of electronic evidence is creating challenges around how to preserve, review and disclose complex data from diverse sources in a unified manner.
Moreover, with most employees working from home, more corporate data is residing in personal environments, potentially on personal devices. This has exacerbated data privacy risk, as previous corporate data protection policies and controls may have slipped during the survival-mode behaviours of many corporations over the last year. Remote working has also made it more difficult for organisations to facilitate the collection of electronic evidence in a timely manner, as responsive data is now often stored on company or personal devices residing in employees’ homes, and as such typically less physically accessible, and on lower-speed connections, than if they were centralised in a corporate office.
These factors have increased the need and demand for deep technical expertise and adaptability to new sources of evidence. The increasing data footprint is also amplifying the need for strong information governance (IG) and privacy policies within organisations to better manage data and associated business processes given the transition to remote work. Our team has seen a significant uptick in clients interested in implementing stronger IG and privacy controls, and many are doing so proactively. It’s a move in the right direction: defensible disposal and governance makes it easier for organisations to manage their data and IP, as well as reduce their privacy risk.
In the next post, I’ll discuss how data is adding new layers of complexity and considerations in M&A and antitrust activity.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.