Psystar case reveals Apple's lax approach to email management

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Psystar case reveals Apple's lax approach to email management

Apple's anti-trust battle against Mac clone vendor Psystar has thrown up a damning revelation regarding Apple's corporate email and document retention policy, or rather its apparent lack of such a policy.

The company said in of one of the official court documents: "At Apple, individual employees are tasked with maintenance of their own files including hard copy documents, emails, voicemails and other electronically recorded materials."

In terms of its case with Psystar the statement added: "At the institution of this lawsuit, Apple identified a group of employees who could potentially have documents relevant to the issues reasonably evident in this action.

"Apple then provided those individuals with a document retention notice which included a request for the retention of any relevant documents, including but not limited to emails, voicemails and other electronically recorded materials relating to the issues in this lawsuit."

The case was recently thrown out by a US judge, but the statement could have far reaching implications in future cases or in the event of a compliance audit.

Although there is still no standard global law pertaining to data retention and e-discovery, this lapse could be troublesome for Apple with EU lawmakers scrutinising compliance regulations and many authorities cracking down on organisations that fail to produce the relevant documents when required.

Even the US government has come under fire over the irretrievable loss of millions of emails pertaining to energy policy discussions, the Valerie Plame affair and the run-up to the Iraq war. It has also emerged that president-elect Barack Obama may have to give up his BlackBerry for compliance reasons.

"Although Apple is not necessarily in breach of the law in this case, it is at least unusual if a company of the size of Apple does not have company-wide policies regarding data retention," said Jeremy Mash, a litigation lawyer at business law firm Olswang.

"This may not be what the court requires, but it is increasingly what the industry expects, and all companies should seriously consider setting some clearly defined rules to help avoid potential problems with future litigation."
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