Skip to content

5 legal challenges of big data: How large volumes of data lead to legal discovery

| Written by Altlaw

With data at the forefront of many modern lives, understanding how to properly manage, store and process it is vital in litigation. However, when legal professionals are tasked with dealing with huge volumes of data — known as big data — this can present problems.

So, what are the legal challenges of big data? And are there tools available to overcome these issues? Let’s find out.


What is big data?

Big data refers to large volumes of hard-to-manage data that’s too complex to be dealt with by traditional processing methods. How you deal with big data depends on the following characteristics:

  • Volume - The size of data determines how valuable it is and whether it should be classed as big data
  • Variety - Data can be structured or unstructured and originate from several channels. Think emails, photos, videos, audio, etc
  • Velocity - The speed of data generation. How fast is new data being generated and how can you process this to meet your needs?

So, what importance does big data play in legal proceedings? Like most things in the modern world, data can greatly influence litigation processes.

In law, utilising big data with advanced analytics tools can speed up the justice process, present new evidence and streamline document processing. However, dealing with big data isn’t simple. Let’s look at some of the challenges legal professionals face when dealing with big data.


Challenge #1: Data security

Big data naturally brings more risk of security and privacy issues. With more scrutiny placed on data protection, legal professionals and IT leaders must consider privacy, confidentiality and data management more than ever.

Larger volumes of data also bring a higher threat of a data breach. With such high concentrations of data stored together, legal organisations must prioritise mitigating cyber-risk as these data sets may become targets for hackers. Security breaches can be incredibly costly for businesses, so effective data security is essential.

Challenge #2: Consumer privacy

The protection of personal data is a legal requirement per the Data Protection Act 2018. When dealing with big data, legal professionals need to remain compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Privacy agreements are vital in big data contracts and it’s important to understand the data you’re dealing with. When dealing with such large volumes of data, drawing distinctions between which data can and can’t be disclosed can be an issue.

Individuals expect privacy and determining who might have an ownership claim on data can sometimes be difficult. With much of the information potentially being protected by GDPR, discovery, preservation and review processes can encounter complications.

New call-to-action

Challenge #3: Volume of data

One of the main challenges in eDiscovery when it comes to big data is the sheer volume of electronically stored information (ESI) that sometimes has to be analysed. Internet users generate around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day and the big data analytics market is expected to reach $103 billion by 2023.

The amount of data being created can be overwhelming and as businesses and individuals create more data, data volumes for eDiscovery matters are growing. But, as data volume grows, court deadlines and expectations rarely change to suit the needs of more demanding eDiscovery matters.

When processing data, you’re potentially dealing with hundreds of gigabytes of data or more. Therefore, ensuring you have the correct technology at your disposal is essential. Legal professionals can utilise efficient ways to analyse data to overcome the volume challenge of big data, such as analytics tools.

Challenge #4: Review process

Reviewing the data you’ve processed can be time-consuming, especially if the review is manual. If a human eye is needed to look over documents, this can add significant time to your review process. This is why modern analytics tools are becoming increasingly important in litigation.

Legal analytics tools can automate the labour-intensive process of a review and present the most relevant documents to your case, saving you valuable time.

Challenge #5: Variety of data

With every form of electronic data available in eDiscovery, the variety of data can compound the challenge of volume. It’s one thing to understand the different types of ESI, but collecting, managing and storing it can be difficult. So which types of data can be collected?

  • Active data - Data that individuals interact with regularly, such as emails. This ESI is generally easy to collect
  • Mobile data - ESI from text messages, call logs, apps, etc. This can be difficult to collect and often requires complex tools
  • Cloud - Cloud data is data created and stored on cloud servers. Cloud providers have policies for accessing data, but eDiscovery solutions adapt to collect data more easily
  • Offline - Data that’s stored or archived. Easy to collect if you know the physical location of the archive
  • Backups - Data backed up to an external device if data needs to be restored. Some systems can provide challenges as they’re often not easy to search due to the compression of files
  • Hidden - Deleted files that aren’t visible without using specialised tools. Hidden files can be challenging to recover in most cases

Add the volume of big data to the variety of ESI that should be accessed and collected in litigation processes and you can understand why challenges may present themselves.

However, modern analytics tools can help you effectively deal with the ever-expanding data landscape.

Access all Altlaw educational resources for free

Want unlimited access to all of our eBooks, guides and resources? Simply sign up for our Content Hub for lifetime entry to the locked Hub.

Once you've signed up once, you won't need to sign up again, giving you access to our wide range of locked content and any future content we add to the Hub.

Ready to get started? Click below.