Anyone would agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has been terrible news for most people and businesses. Except if you are an online retailer, a face-mask distributor—or Zoom. When you look for lists of companies that have benefited from the global pandemic, you’ll notice Zoom is present in every single one of them.
Despite numerous issues with “Zoom bombing” from trolls and scandals around data privacy, the San Jose-based video conferencing giant was one of the fastest-growing companies during the pandemic. In fact, after March 2020, Zoom meeting participants increased by 2,900% and the company saw its value raised by 383%, with its valuation exceeding $100 billion.
And with the explosion of remote work and the use of video conferencing tools like Zoom came an explosion of audiovisual data, which has generated new challenges and considerations for eDiscovery that legal professionals need to learn how to handle. For context on the scope of this “Zoom boom”, the app’s meetings are joined by over 300 million participants every day and they register more than three trillion annual meeting minutes.
In addition to eDiscovery challenges, the widespread use of Zoom and similar video conferencing apps such as Google Meet or Microsoft Teams has brought up other legal questions regarding retention policies for A/V content, storage limitations, data security, and protection, data preservation, etc.
In this article, we’ll go over best practices and main challenges presented by Zoom data in eDiscovery and other legal procedures like internal investigations or subpoena responses, and how to navigate the technical aspects of reviewing audiovisual content with the best technology for the job.
Beyond Video Calls: Understanding Zoom Solutions & Data Generated
When you think about Zoom, the first thing that comes to mind is a video call with participants displayed on a grid—which might remind a bit of “The Brady Bunch” intro, but with higher resolution and usually worse hairstyles.
However, the video conferencing tool is just one of the multiple solutions Zoom offers. With a total of 7 different products—Meetings, Chat, Phone System, Zoom Rooms, Events and Webinars, Marketplace, and a Developer Platform—it’s important for legal professionals to understand the different types of data they generate in order to implement the right policies and discovery processes in their organizations.
Here’s an overview of the three main types of data generated in Zoom’s solutions:
- Chat data: Together with data from other apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack, Zoom Chat data has become a crucial source of ESI in recent years. Chat data can be generated either through the in-conference chats, in which case it usually acts as supporting data for the meeting recording, or directly on their instant messaging product, Zoom Chats.
- Video recordings: Meeting video recordings are the bread and butter of Zoom data. With more and more teams saving their recordings in the cloud, these A/V files can be extremely relevant pieces of ESI. Note that after any recorded meeting, Zoom automatically generates both a video and an audio-only file. For eDiscovery purposes, it’s important to determine which of the two is selected for review, since costs associated with file size and accessibility can vary significantly, with video records usually being more expensive to review. When meetings haven’t been recorded, usage data reports, which include meeting data such as attendees, date and time of the meeting, subject, etc. can also be a crucial source of ESI.
- Audio recordings: Apart from the audio files generated after a recorded Zoom meeting, audio recordings can be produced on other Zoom solutions such as Zoom Phone or Zoom Events.
For any legal professional, Zoom data presents unique challenges when it comes to retention, collection, and most importantly, review—especially when there’s no transcription available of A/V files—which we’ll cover in more detail in the following sections.
Reviewing Zoom Data: Choose a Tool With A Strong A/V Functionality
While preserving, identifying, and collecting Zoom data are important challenges for legal professionals, the most important challenge of all is the review of meeting recordings—especially when transcripts are lost or unavailable.
Just imagine if only one-tenth of your Zoom company's meetings were recorded and archived—and then you were tasked with reviewing them in discovery or an investigation. How would you determine which recordings were the most relevant? How would you spot important keywords? How would you keep your review teams from going on a wildcat strike after watching 10 hours of daily stand-ups in one sitting?
While these questions may sound overwhelming, they’re still the reality of most in-house teams today. Even when equipped with eDiscovery software, without specific A/V capabilities, review teams still need to sit and watch —or listen to—hours of video and audio recordings to find relevant information, which can turn into an unbearable nightmare.
For example, consider a discovery request where Zoom meeting recordings from a specific team in your company were the main source of ESI. Upon identifying and collecting all potentially relevant data, you realize you have over 10,000 recordings to review. With a review rate of 25 recordings per hour and $40/hour in review fees, a review team would spend 400 hours on the task and charge $16,000 for it.
That would only be the case if you or an external review team don’t use transcripts (which would mean sitting down and actually watching every single recording.) You’d probably want to generate transcriptions of your A/V files to make them searchable, but in that case, if you didn’t have review technology to automate the transcription process, you’d need to pay for a third-party transcription service that would charge around $1.25 per minute transcribed. If your recordings are 30 minutes long on average, that’s $37.5 per recording—or a total of $37,500 for transcriptions alone. And even when those transcriptions would allow you to do some culling in-house, you’d still need to pay a hefty amount to get any potentially responsive documents reviewed.
Sounds like something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy?
Well, this is almost exactly what happened to a Tulsa-based Fortune 500 company that is the subject of Logikcull's latest case study on handling A/V data in litigation. But far from getting intimidated by this task, their legal team decided to turn to available technology to handle it. By using Logikcull’s A/V Transcription feature with VoiceTouch, they ended up reviewing just eight potentially relevant recordings (eight!) which took them only a few minutes. They also saved over $178,000 in review costs in the process.
Best Practices To Review Zoom Data
To tackle the unsustainable review process created by current volumes of A/V data, eDiscovery tools like Logikcull are coming up with specific and scalable solutions to this problem.
Logikcull’s recently released A/V transcriptions is a feature that creates automatic transcripts of audiovisual files upon ingestion while indexing the text to make it searchable. This ensures you can search through your meeting recordings the same way you’d search on any other written document.
But Logikcull has taken this functionality even one step further by adding VoiceTouch, which allows you to click on any word or sentence on the transcript, and automatically jump to that section on your A/V file. That way, you can look for relevant keywords and then check out the specific context in which they took place while paying attention to things like the tone, intention, reactions of meeting participants, etc.
You can learn more about A/V discovery and how Logikcull tackles this problem with A/V transcriptions and VoiceTouch in this insightful webinar:
So, with a technology like this at hand, how would a sound process to manage your Zoom recordings look like?
- Once you have collected all your recordings, you need to transcribe them. Watching or listening to them one by one—or paying someone to do so—should be out of the table. The same applies to paying $1.25 a minute for a manual transcription. With Logikcull’s functionality, all you’d need to do is upload your recordings into the platform, and the transcripts will be automatically generated and available for review.
- Next, you can easily cull your data to reduce the number of files that need to be reviewed. Consider using criteria like date ranges, keywords, meeting participants, etc.
- When it comes to reviewing, VoiceTouch will help you key your transcript to your recordings, so you don’t miss any context or relevant information. Just click on a specific section of the transcript and you’ll be taken to that exact moment in the recording.
- Make sure you leverage advanced search capabilities when looking for potentially relevant information. One thing to keep in mind is that transcripts might not always be 100% accurate— lower audio quality, background noise, or overlapping speakers can all influence transcription accuracy. To counter this, use fuzzy terms that will hit on keywords in multiple variations. For example, in Logikcull users can leverage fuzzy terms and set a custom level of similarity, so that a search for the fuzzy term of “need” may, at a low similarity threshold, bring in “needle,” “neading,” or “meeting,” or, at a higher threshold, return only “need” and “nead.” Here are a few more advanced searches that might come in handy.
- Incorporate homophones into your search strategy. If you’re searching for words that may be transcribed as their homophone—say “logical” instead of “Logikcull”—you’ll want to include both potentialities in your search.
- Finally, you can utilize the filter carousel to narrow down your search even more by using metadata regarding recordings dates and times, participants, meeting duration, etc.
With specific A/V capabilities, conducting eDiscovery on A/V data is not too different from the process you’d follow with any other data type—so the threat of having to replace Netflix with all the meeting recordings you need to review automatically vanishes.
Other Considerations When Managing Zoom Data
In order to set the right retention policy for Zoom data, you need to get familiar with the different Zoom plans and the retention options available in each of them.
Generally speaking, the three paid plans available in Zoom (Pro, Business, and Enterprise) allow admins and account owners to manage storage and preservation options of Zoom data such as meeting recordings and chats. It’s important to note that most of the information saved in Zoom’s cloud is automatically deleted after 30 days unless specified otherwise.
There are also storage limitations depending on the plan that your organization uses, so it’s key to keep these in mind when creating a Zoom retention policy. Here are their cloud storage limits by plan, which can always be expanded by buying extra storage.
- Pro: 1 GB/Licensed User
- Business: 1 GB/Licensed User
- Enterprise: Unlimited storage
- Education: 0.5 GB/Licensed User
- Zoom Rooms: 1 GB/Zoom Room
When it comes to collecting Zoom data, you’ll need to understand the storage protocol used at your company to easily locate the data you need.
Some companies opt for centralizing all Zoom recordings and chats in one single cloud repository, which makes it much easier to access later on. Plus, cloud storage ensures that you’ll always keep a video, audio, and text (chat) file of all meetings, and even get meeting transcripts—as long as you use a Business plan or above and that the option is enabled in your settings.
However, many companies use a hybrid model of cloud and locally stored data, which can turn identification and collection of relevant data into much harder tasks.
To implement best practices for Zoom data management and retention that ensure a defensible and streamlined process, you should have a Zoom policy in place which includes when and how to use Zoom, the retention periods for different types of data, and storage locations for ease of identification. A thought-through policy will keep everyone on the same page, making the legal team’s life easier when litigation arises and avoiding potential missteps in the management of vital data.
For any proactive and long-term thinking in-house team, it’s important to have a comprehensive process around Zoom and other A/V data as the increasing volumes and the nature of these data types require a specific strategy.
And while the recent explosion of A/V data generated by video conferencing apps like Zoom can be overwhelming for anyone involved in eDiscovery, it doesn’t need to be.
Modern eDiscovery software is well-equipped to deal with the processing and review of Zoom and other audiovisual data just as if it were any other data type—while also including features specifically designed to leverage A/V content, such as automatic transcriptions and VoiceTouch.
Just make sure to choose an eDiscovery tool that evolves with emerging trends and adapts quickly to new data types—and you’ll be sure your needs are always met.