As the Internet of Things only grows in prominence and popularity, data from IoT will continue to increase exponentially. Soon enough, IoT will become the eDiscovery of Things.

To date, the Federal Rules of Civil procedure have generally treated all data within the enterprise as discoverable, and updates to the FRCP over time have only made that expectation more clear. As businesses expand their network of connected devices and collect more and more data, there will increasingly be an expectation that the data is discoverable.

Linda Sharp, associate general counsel of ZL Technologies, shed some light on what the future of the IoT means for eDiscovery.

“Exponential data growth is already the norm, and the IoT will continue to drive data creation to volumes that are nearly incomprehensible by the human mind,” she explained. “The data generated from millions—or billions—of connected things promises to provide a more granular understanding of human behavior than ever before.”

However, businesses today still have difficulty in managing their own internal data, particularly unstructured data such as files, emails, social media, and instant messaging. Information governance is still new. Many organizations have data fragmented across multiple “silos,” where duplicates are rife and a single, centralized search is impossible. If the business cannot gain control or insight of their data first, the IoT may become a messy burden. With FRCP Rule 34 leaving the door open for discovery of any digital content, organizations that are still having trouble controlling “traditional” digital content such as documents may find themselves in trouble when IoT data is suddenly called upon in a legal setting.

According to Sharp, there are a few particularly prominent drivers that are noteworthy in explaining the growth and popularity of connected devices over the last several years.

Cheap, small, reliable sensors

Sensors—such as those that detect acceleration, temperature, radio frequency, pressure, geolocation, and other qualities—have become increasingly cheaper, faster, smaller, and more accurate over time, according to Sharp.

“As is the case with many technologies, there is a tipping point when suddenly the combination of price and reliability make it feasible to include that technology in a much broader range of applications… and we’re currently at that point for many of the sensor technologies that the IoT depends on,” she explained.

Ubiquitous cloud, Wi-Fi, and mobile networks

Small sensors can only hold so much data. Similarly, offloading data only to a single device (such as a desktop hard drive) limits accessibility of information. She said, “The growth of mobile data availability, Wi-Fi, and cloud has allowed sensors to become continually connected in the true sense, allowing more to be done with the data.”

Rise of the Information Economy

Data is the new business currency. According to Sharp, business leaders are always looking for data to augment every aspect of business decisions in order to increase efficiency. A bank, for example, may want to correlate banking app use with user location data, provided by app-users’ phones. This allows more detailed analysis of patterns, and creation of better services and features. IoT creates the opportunity for secondary revenue streams, as data collected from sensors by one company can be anonymized and sold to other businesses.

As businesses expand their network of connected devices and collect more data, there will be an expectation that the data is discoverable. It may not happen overnight, but norms change, and IoT data has already been used in court for personal injury lawsuits. It’s not out of the question for sensor data to start becoming more common in corporate litigation, especially given the increasing consumer awareness of privacy issues in an ultra-connected and tracked world, said Sharp. The reality is that businesses must come up with more effective ways to manage all data types.

Not so long ago, many businesspeople had their own secretary who crafted outgoing communications and provided a form of monitoring before information left the organization, a second pair of eyes. By the late 1990s, companies updated computer systems and added functionality at the desktop level. 

“This changed the dynamics in the way we conduct business,” she said. “This new model streamlined and sped up the communication process, however, data volumes multiplied and the likelihood of doing something ‘wrong’ with communication skyrocketed. Regulatory requirements expanded, placing new expectations that previously-undocumented business communications would be saved, governed, and monitored.”

A few years ago, we saw BYOD expand in the corporate environment, and are now looking at the rise of IoT and the tricky issues that come with it, including ownership of data. Data volumes continue to grow at an exponential rate, and communications that used to be considered casual now have a digital paper trail within the organization.

“There is a tremendous disconnect between businesses’ need to utilize data to be more efficient and productive, and the logistics surrounding potential production of this content,” said Sharp. “However, more data sources probably will mean an increase in the expectation of courts for businesses to manage data.”

So, what does the future of the IoT mean for eDiscovery? 

Since the 2006 update, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have generally treated all data within the enterprise as discoverable, and updates to the FRCP over time have only made that expectation more clear, according to Sharp.

“As the IoT matures, courts will have less patience and a higher expectation for businesses to produce data from connected devices when deemed appropriate or relevant,” she said. “Complicating matters is the blurring line between the private and business lives of individuals generating data. Because of this, legal ownership of data increases in importance.”

Related stores:

Prediction 2016: Privacy remains a top risk

How the revised e-discovery rules have changed the litigation game

“I Have Read and Agree to These Terms and Conditions”: Online Contracting in the Internet Age

The Internet of Things’ impact on employment law