A worldwide plan to develop unified e-discovery processes is delayed, after an election at the International Standards Organization last week returned mixed results.
Under the plan, details of which have not yet been determined, e-discovery software companies and service providers would use documented and auditable methods when performing client work, project co-editor and U.S. representative to the ISO committee Eric Hibbard said last week. If the effort were to succeed, then customers and judges could focus on law instead of pondering technical techniques when selecting products or litigating cases, explained Hibbard, who is an engineer at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hitachi Data Systems.
Before building a standard, ISO rules require five member nations to commit their participation and to provide a specific contact person, but only three did so: the U.S., U.K., and Thailand, Hibbard said. Affirmative votes from Italy, Japan, and South Africa were expected but didn't come through, probably because delegates didn't convince their national standards bodies, he said. Japanese and Australian delegates expressed concern that the plan is overly rooted in American law, according to ISO documents unavailable online. Representatives from Canada did not vote.
There are three ways the project can still move forward, Hibbard explained. Two of the alternatives would allow the project to remain in the international community. One way the project can remain in the community is if other member nations change their votes before the ISO's next election in mid-April. Hibbard said that happened in two other standards projects, with both eventually being approved. The U.S. delegation will lobby others for their support, he said. "Between now and mid-April at the [next] meeting there is an opportunity for national bodies to change their position," Hibbard said. "If two more countries indicate a willingness to participate, the project gets launched."
The other way the project could stay within the international standard community is if the project is merged into a related standard that is more mainstream, such as an existing one for analysis and interpretation of digital evidence. If the project stalls at the international level, Hibbard's team can limit his focus on U.S. standards. Later, if the project finds adoption, it could revert back to the international level, he said.
"This project was a U.S. proposal, so we had to generate a significant amount of support and encouragement from the American Bar Association to get this far," Hibbard said. In a related vote, 18 nations voted to approve the ISO's definition of the project, and 15 voted their support for the project as an ongoing topic through April, he noted. "I'm still optimistic about the project," Hibbard said.