Relativity Fest 2021 runs from 4-6 October. The decision to make it a virtual event was made many months ago, not just because of the continuing uncertainty about lockdowns and travel restrictions, but because last year’s Relativity Fest was a great success. Yes, it left a hole for those of us who are used to going to Chicago every October, but the virtual attendance was much higher than had been possible before. The virtual on-demand format means that you are also spared having to choose between parallel sessions, with the chance to catch up later with anything you missed.
The agenda is here. I am, as usual, moderating the International Panel. That gives me the opportunity to recall that privacy and data protection are relative newcomers to eDiscovery event agendas. Not long ago, the main themes were rules (in my case comparing developments around the world) and new technology. Each of these subjects had their day in the sun and were then absorbed and taken for granted, to be replaced the following year by news from some other jurisdiction or by a new technology solution.
I started talking about privacy and data protection in about 2009. Outside The Sedona Conference (which was early and authoritative on these subjects) few in the US were much interested in the idea that an individual’s right to privacy might compete with the expectations of courts and opponents that discovery be full and unqualified. We gradually elbowed our way into the agendas with talk of the then-pending EU General Data Protection Regulation, suggesting that anyone involved in international business ought to know about the GDPR. We have at least one significant case (Vesuvius USA Cop. v Phillips, described in this article) in which US discovery demands collide with the GDPR.
Privacy was not just an overlay on discovery, or an afterthought, but a consideration which was integral to the discovery process. More than that, its solutions lay in the way organisations created, used and stored their information. The subject of “information governance”, which had not really taken off when it first came up as a technology subject, suddenly became important. “If you keep less crap you’ll have less of a problem” was my closing line at one Relativity panel, its inelegant language gaining some attention for its serious message.
The GDPR brought strict requirements which, properly thought through, permeated every aspect not just of discovery but of the wider subject of information governance and security. That “keep less crap” message touched on every aspect of data management – not just the collection of historic material but the growing importance of watching data as it moved through the systems, of investigations in near-real time, of collections, and of search. Now the topic is artificial intelligence – significant in its own right, but significant also as it impinges on private information.
Once you focus on this, the GDPR’s permeation of conference agendas is obvious. The Relativity Fest agenda has three sessions which are expressly focussed on privacy. It dominates my International Panel; one session is called The GDPR and its ongoing ripple effect: international transfers, copycat laws and AI, and there is a discussion called Corporate eDiscovery’s role in the future of data privacy.
That is not the end of it, however. Even without any express reference to privacy in the panel title or description, the effect of the GDPR on session topics can’t be overlooked. Investigations? APAC? Compliance? Surveillance? AI? Data breaches? Any of these subjects bumps into the GDPR at some point.
Unlike the subjects of old – on the rules or on specific technology developments – privacy and data protection will not wither with age. With a few exceptions, it will not be possible to talk about data management or data discovery without explaining how it affects and handles privacy.
There are other things in the Relativity Fest programme which would not have got a look in in the past. A crossover collaboration between Stellar Women in eDiscovery and EDRM will look at how habits and interests may change after the pandemic. Another looks at how we develop the leaders of tomorrow, with a focus on inclusion and diversity. There is a session on Relativity’s Justice for Change initiative.
All this comes in addition to sessions on specific regions such as EMEA and APAC, on legal-technical issues such as collections, redactions and data breaches, and on the relationship with general counsel with a session on the Third Annual FTI-Relativity General Counsel Survey.
Something for everyone then who is interested in eDiscovery and the wider subjects which surround it. Registration is here.