iPhones and Smartphones: A Treasure Trove of Hidden Electronically Stored Information

The use of iPhones and other types of smartphones has exploded in the past five years.  As of November 2011, a staggering 71 percent of Americans own either an iPhone or an Android-based smartphone.  And millions of applications are downloaded to these iPhones and smartphones everyday.  The use of these devices has created a treasure trove of hidden electronically stored information ("ESI") that most users may not even know exists - and that could be discoverable.  Wired.com reports that IBM has become so worried about the types of data being collected on iPhones that it has disabled the Siri application on its networks. 

For example, Siri, Apple's "personal assistant," collects and uses Voice Input Data, which includes audio recordings, transcripts, and related diagnostic data, to process requests and understand commands.  Siri also collects and uses User Data, which includes address book contacts, labels assigned to email accounts, and names of songs and playlists in the user's collection.  And iPhones aren't the only ones collecting this data.  Other smartphones contain dictation features that collect and use things like audio recordings and address books. 

In addition to information collected by dictation and "personal assistant" features, information is also collected by the many applications downloaded by users.  GPS applications are a prime example, collecting and using data like the name and address of the owner, his friends, and even his bank. 

Mobile devices also contain other obvious forms of ESI, including text messages, email messages, instant messages, Blackberry PIN messages, and voicemails.  Digital voicemail, a feature which permits a user to receive an email message containing an audio file and in some cases a transcription of a voicemail, has also increased in popularity and availability.  These devices are likely to contain both personal and business related information.

In addition to disabling certain devices or applications, companies can also limit the exposure associated with this hidden ESI by having clear policies on use that address issues such as how to preserve such data if required.  If text messaging or instant messaging is necessary for a business function, companies may want to consider options that give them more control over usage, storage, and retention of such data.  As iPhone and other smartphone usage continues to skyrocket, companies need to be proactive in adopting policies to manage the data associated with iPhones and smartphones.  Without a policy in place, companies may be unwittingly storing huge caches of potentially discoverable information that can be extremely expensive to produce.

For more information, contact Lindsey Mann, John Hutchins, or Alison Grounds.

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