There’s a widely held assumption that the predominant use case for eDiscovery in government is reserved for litigation purposes. The reality, however, is that the eDiscovery use cases in the government sector are as expansive as they are varied.
Whether responding to a FOIA request or a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation, or collecting relevant data for criminal litigation, government entities of every size and function must be able to collect, process, review, and produce digital information quickly, accurately, and in compliance with existing regulations.
While eDiscovery use cases in the government sector cover a broad spectrum, there are four key use cases that underscore the need for and importance of having a trusted partner and a robust, purpose-built eDiscovery platform. By consolidating their tech stack, an agency can save time and money while dramatically improving the user experience for employees and stakeholders.
Government agencies rely on eDiscovery to support a wide range of litigation efforts — from defending against EEOC/HR claims to providing defense as part of the Criminal Justice Act. A modern eDiscovery solution with advanced analytics and visualization capabilities can allow federal and state attorneys general to quickly identify key information, recognize patterns in large data sets, and achieve more with limited human resources.
Government Agencies have faced growing difficulties over the past decade managing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests while simultaneously working with diminished resources to handle these requests.
Prior to the pandemic, response times to FOIA requests were slowing as the acceleration in demand for information grew. The number of FOIA requests increased by more than 30% across government agencies between 2012 and 2018. Then, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the number of FOIA requests climbed even higher, but the number of agency resources to manage these requests diminished. Government agencies received a record-high 928,353 FOIA requests in 2022.
But it’s not just the volume of FOIA requests that’s hindering agencies — it’s also the complexity of the requests. For example, according to a 2022 GAO report, “the number of complex requests processed rose for every agency except EPA” between 2012 and 2020, and USDA officials noted that “many of these requests required consultations with other federal agencies and took more time to review and process.”
The presence of highly sensitive information adds to the complexity of the response process. When an agency receives a FOIA request, it’s likely that the document or record also includes confidential and personally identifiable information (PII) that needs to be redacted before responding. An eDiscovery platform that provides a full suite of end-to-end functionalities for agencies to identify, collect, process, review, and redact responsive records seamlessly translates to cost and time savings.
Congressional inquiries require processing large volumes of unstructured data. At the same time, accuracy is essential because documentation must be provided as evidence for hearings or legislative action.
In recent years, investigations such as those concerning Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 election highlighted the role Congressional committees play in assembling facts about important events and conferring with witnesses for further clarity. Evidence collected as part of such inquiries adds important context to public-policy decisions and helps bolster traditional systems of accountability.
The discovery process for congressional inquiries can be especially arduous if tackled the old-fashioned way. It often requires validating witness statements, identifying and obtaining relevant documents by hand, conducting interrogatories and depositions, and supporting other investigative methods. With an eDiscovery platform configured for an agency’s specific needs and a partner to show a team how to find what they need on not just one but multiple matters, the time spent searching for data and the human and financial costs are going to be much, much lower — allowing personnel to focus attention on other important issues.
Investigations might seek out evidence of violations of law or mismanagement within an agency, including waste, fraud, and abuse. In each case, an agency will need to quickly locate evidence across many unstructured data sources that are often housed in disparate systems and centralize that data.
For instance, when an agency opens an internal investigation, there’s a high likelihood that email, instant chat platforms, calls and texts from agency-issued cell phones, and audio and video files will need to be processed, reviewed, and tagged.
In an external investigation, there may be phone calls, wiretaps, video surveillance, or conversations taking place on various instant chat platforms and social media sites. The time and cost involved with listening to and watching every single file can take weeks or even months, requiring large amounts of employees’ valuable time and resources.
With subpar analytics capabilities or manual review processes, agencies can spend weeks — even months — locating and corralling the necessary data. The time to insight, as a result, can take weeks or even months.
A modern eDiscovery solution such as Casepoint, by contrast, enables agencies to efficiently sift through terabytes of potential evidence in a variety of formats by leveraging powerful AI and analytics. From there, agencies can swiftly and effectively unify all of the evidence into one location.
Government agencies, more than ever, need to work smarter. The combination of a trusted partner and a robust, end-to-end eDiscovery platform can vastly improve the user experience for agency employees and their stakeholders. Moreover, eDiscovery platforms enable agencies to slash time and cost to support litigation, FOIA requests, Congressional inquiries, and investigations by using secure, defensible tools and processes. eDiscovery platforms support government agencies’ mission critical work through a number of use cases, and by maintaining security and ensuring regulatory compliance.
Agencies should understand not only these four eDiscovery use cases, but also whether their existing solution — or lack thereof — is the best way to address each of these challenges. There’s no better time than now to invest in secure, cloud-based eDiscovery technology to help you do just that.
Download our whitepaper to see how a trusted partner can help government agencies overcome their biggest eDiscovery challenges.