To many people the “double-deletion” of email is an everyday occurrence, with the majority of people deleting emails and emptying their trash folders routinely every day. In fact certain email providers such as Outlook even issue a prompt on your screen to delete your emails when you are closing out of the program. On top of this most organizations would impose a short retention period on your emails or a mailbox size limit, all of this done to stop your mailbox getting out of hand and causing performance issues on your email system.
But a recent lawsuit throws a curve ball at this as it alleges that certain organizations tried to cover up illicit communications by instructing each other to double-delete their email. The case in question is the “e-book price fixing lawsuit” brought against Apple and some individual book publishers by the Department of Justice. The lawsuit is based around the allegation that they “took steps to conceal their communications with one another, including instructions to ‘double delete’ email…”.
Is Double Deletion Illegal?
The crazy thing about all this is that double-deletion is not illegal as long as there is no duty or regulation to preserve it. But once a duty or regulation has been created (such as a notification of impending litigation) then you are legally required to keep all of your ESI (electronically stored information) for ediscovery and compliance reasons.
Does Double Deletion Work?
Another strange fact about double deletion is that it is not even effective in its attempt to hide information. Although the information may not be visible to the user it may still be live on your hard drive and there are a multitude of forensic tools available to recover any deleted emails.
Why Double Delete?
The main reasons that organizations tend to double-delete, impose mailbox size limits and short retention periods on your inbox is that they are trying to restrict the strain that the multitude of data will cause to your system which in turn will slow down its performance or even lead to a crash. All of which would be detrimental to any organization. Although double deletion is not illegal, it is not the solution as it leaves you open to run afoul of a multitude of compliance laws.
What is the solution?
The best answer to these problems is a full email archiving solution. The great thing about email archiving is that is does everything that has been mentioned above but it keeps you in full compliance with the various rules and regulations that are in existence. Email archiving frees up the space on your email system by taking your emails to its archive - and the great thing about it is that those emails are only a click away so you don’t have to worry about the time constraints imposed trying to recover these files.
In summary. although double-deletion may not always be illegal there is a definite grey area that can lead to major ramifications if litigation arises. Email archiving gives you the freedom to remove emails off your system but there is no risk of breaking any compliance laws.