According to new federal rules that went into effect Dec. 1, schools, businesses, and other organizations are required to keep tabs on all eMail, instant messages (IM), and other digital communications produced by their employees.
The rules, first approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in April, have been widely reported as important for businesses and other for-profit enterprises. But, according to legal experts familiar with the case, the High Court’s ruling also applies to public schools and other nonprofit organizations.
The ruling–which states that any entity involved in litigation must be able to produce “electronically stored information” during the discovery process–the process in which opposing sides of a legal dispute must share evidence before trial–could have significant implications for school technology departments, especially in places where technicians routinely copy over backup discs and other information housed on school servers….
“We have a policy that employees need to sign indicating they have no right to consider anything that they do on our network–including our [voice-over-IP system]–as confidential,” wrote Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Berryessa Union School District in San Jose, Calif.
But even that isn’t enough, explained Lindsay–not anymore….
For schools and other entities that often require the assistance of legal counsel, the rules also could translate into higher costs, experts say. Not only will organizations need to find a method of cataloging and searching through eMail and IM in the event of a lawsuit; they also might consider investing in technology that helps them filter through digital photos stored on employees’ phones and information tucked away on removable memory sticks, among other portable devices….
Complete List of Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Letter from Committee of Rules and Practice of Procedure outlining the new rules
(Hat tip to Adri at Library Stories.)