How to “Socially-Distance” your Data - Preserving Data in a New Era of Remote Working

In the midst of the pandemic, our lives have changed; our work practices have changed; and…our data has changed. In this new era of a remote workforce, there have been huge changes to how and where business data is stored and with those changes comes challenges.

Many have predicted a surge in disputes and investigations as the pandemic continues. If this surge does come, is your business ready to respond to the corresponding surge in data requests?

We explore below some of the changes in data storage and what practices and policies businesses should now have in place to deal with those changes to ensure they are ready for a data request.

Mobile Devices

We have come a long way since the 1980s where employee devices typically consisted of an office computer and a landline telephone. In this new era of a remote workforce, employees across most sectors are now using a wide range of mobile devices 24/7, including work and personal laptops, work and personal smart phones/tablets, personal home printers/scanners; the list goes on.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak some organisations had already introduced Bring Your Own Device ("BYOD") policies for employees and their mobile devices. Such policies are now more important than ever.

While BYOD practices are thought to increase employee satisfaction, convenience, and productivity, and reduce employer costs, the use of mobile devices means that employees are increasingly co-mingling work and personal data on their devices. Stringent GDPR obligations coupled with the wasted costs associated with hosting irrelevant personal data means that it makes sense to establish firm protocols for how and where business data should be stored on mobile devices.

Mobile device usage also adds to the ever-growing list of data file types emanating from the use of messaging applications on mobile devices. This creates challenges for businesses which need to identify, preserve and collect their data. To alleviate some of the burden and avoid the risk of failing to collect potentially relevant data, businesses should determine which applications their employees may use for business purposes. If messaging applications are approved for use, consideration will need to be given to whether the default settings on these applications with regard to data retention are appropriate.  Ephemeral Messaging applications, which are applications designed to automatically delete messages, merit particularly close attention in this regard.

Social Media

Social media data has, for some time, been part of data collection. The COVID-19 pandemic means that we will see greater use of social media as people are relying on alternatives to face-to-face communications.

Social Media data can be tricky to collect and review but there are good technical solutions now available to help with this.

Disputes about the ownership of social media content can cause unnecessary delays to data collection so a robust social media use policy is a must.

Educating Employees

It is pointless having policies and protocols in place if your employees aren’t aware of them or don’t follow them. Likewise, if you don’t know how your employees are communicating for business purposes, you could expose your business to significant risk by missing potentially relevant data in your collection. It is critical to invest time and resources into speaking with and training your employees. 

Our Project Services Team has significant experience in advising clients on a variety of issues in and around data storage and management and would be pleased to provide further information. Alternatively, your usual contact in McCann FitzGerald would be happy to assist.

This document has been prepared by McCann FitzGerald LLP for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.