FOIA has become a four-letter word, especially when it comes to the eDiscovery field. However, with the withdrawal of a landmark court opinion concerning FOIA and eDiscovery in June, it is increasingly important to know what’s going on in FOIA world. Here are five reasons why. 

1. FOIA, or the Freedom of Information Act, was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson on Independence Day in 1966—very patriotic of him. The act establishes that any individual has the right to access federal agency records upon request. Many of these records weren’t previously available for consumption by the general public, including journalists. This act helped to ease those tensions.

2. Several states also have their own versions of FOIA. Take Virginia, for example. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act isn’t limited solely to federal agencies, but instead gives Virginia citizens and members of the media the right to public records from any public body, public official and public employee.

3. So what does this mean in terms of eDiscovery and a lawyer’s work life in general? Well, that relationship is a little tougher to weed out. A ruling by Judge Scheindlin stated that responses by the federal government to FOIA requests must include metadata and be in a searchable format, proving that even the indomitable FOIA isn’t out of eDiscovery’s grasp.

4. In June, Scheindlin withdrew her opinion, which was originally announced in February 2011, because she said it was not based on a full and complete record. But despite these recent actions, her original decision will still have an impact on and set precedent for the relationship between FOIA and eDiscovery as courts become more technologically driven.

5. The ever-growing presence of cloud computing is also redefining the dynamic duo of FOIA and eDiscovery. With a large portion of today’s content coming in the form of emails, instant messages and other unstructured information, the challenge becomes how to manage that information while responding quickly to requests for it.

This is where cloud computing enters the arena.  Its information management options allow for preparedness. Then, if a FOIA request is filed, those who respond to it can be fully armed with the most effective and updated tools possible. And as FOIA requests intersect the increasing amount of the public sector’s technological information, eDiscovery becomes more and more intertwined in the process, making the knowledge of advancing technology and eDiscovery fields more important than ever before.

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