Electronic Evidence's Best Kept Secret / by Steve Ellwood

It doesn’t have a pretty name at all: CGSB-72.34-2005. “Hi, my name’s CGSB-72.34-2005. Wanna have a drink?” Not so much.

But don’t let the gawky handle fool you. CGSB-72.34-2005 is hugely important. It’s the document from the Canadian Government’s Canadian General Standards Board (i.e. the CGSB) titled Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence, and the standards it sets out apply to everyone. Public sector, private sector. For profit, not for profit. People, corporations.

What the CGSB-72.34-20051 standards do is, according to its Forward (page vii):

“[specify] principles and procedures for creating all forms of electronic records (text, data bases, e-mail systems, bar code, cartographic, audio, pictorial, multimedia, etc.) to enhance their admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings.”

One of e-Discovery’s finest minds, Martin Felsky, summarizes the key provisions of CGSB 72/34-2005^1 in this way:

  1. Use reliable data sources
  2. Use reliable software
  3. Track system changes
  4. Validate data entry procedures
  5. Make record soon after event
  6. Rely on your own records
  7. Make the record routinely
  8. Implement Records Information Management industry standards [e.g. ISO 15489]
  9. Run a secure system [e.g. ISO 27002]
  10. Protect privileged and private information

Since everything - documents, voicemails, photos, accounting systems, communications - is digital nowadays, these standards apply to pretty much everything every organization does. And if there is litigation, any evidence that does not comply with these standards could be open to attack.

Any and every organization is exposed to litigation. They will need, at some point, to produce evidence from their internal systems. It seems to me obvious that they all need to be aware of, and comply with, CGSB 72.34-2005.

Yet, the number of people I meet who are not aware of the standards is starling. Lawyers, IT professionals, CTOs, security experts - mention CGSB 72.34-2005 to many (not all) of them, and you are met with the blank stare of Huh?. Without a doubt, CGSB 72.34-2005 is electronic evidence’s best kept secret.

You may not want to have a drink with CGSB-72.34-2005, but every lawyer and business owner should spend time with it.

Click here for a copy of CGSB-72.34-2005

Martin Felsky, Ph.D., J.D. Evidence 101 and What CGSB Compliance Really Means, 2012, http://www.felsky.com/uploads/8/1/3/8/8138148/evidence101andwhatcgsbcompliancereally_means.pdf. See also Ken Chasse, The Dependence of Electronic Discovery and Admissibility Upon Electronic Records Management, 2013